Pittsburgh Pirates: Five Best First Base Free Agent Targets

A Look at the five best potential first base free agents for the Pirates.
Aug 11, 2023; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays designated hitter Brandon Belt (13) runs the
Aug 11, 2023; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays designated hitter Brandon Belt (13) runs the / Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
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Honorable Mentions

Josh Bell

Josh Bell is coming off a Josh Bell season. After having just a 96 wRC+ in the first half of 2023, he got hot in the second half of the season and had a 116 wRC+ down the line. Even though he has consistently had ups and downs throughout his career, 2023 still marks the sixth season he’s graded out as an above-average hitter per wRC+. But Bell is still a horrible defensive 1B. He had -5 DRS and -4 OAA, and that was after playing more games as a DH than 1B. Bell is also far from guaranteed to hit the open market given he has a $16.5 million player option.

C.J. Cron

C.J. Cron batted .268/.343/.496 with a .357 wOBA, and 112 wRC+ for the Colorado Rockies in 2021 and 2022. He also slugged 57 home runs while grading out as a positive with the glove (+8 DRS, 0 OAA). But the veteran struggled this past season, both with injuries and his performance, only appearing in 71 games and batting .248/.295/.434, and 82 wRC+. But he still had a solid .334 xwOBA and .470 xSLG. Cron is a potential rebound candidate for 2024.

Kazuma Okamoto

If Kazuma Okamoto was a near guarantee to come over from Japan, he’d be more than just an honorable mention. Okamato batted .278/.378/.585 this season with a career-best 41 home runs. Okamato struck out just 18.9% of the time with a 15.5% walk rate. Okamato would need to be posted, however, and that’s not a guaranteed to happen this off-season. However, if he were to have an opportunity to go Stateside, it’s something the Pirates should look deep into.

Donovan Solano

Donovan Solano is an unconventional option at first base. A more contact/OBP-focused hitter than power, Solano hit .282/.369/.391 with a 116 wRC+ through 450 plate appearances. While Solano ranked top ten among first basemen with at least 450 PAs in batting average and on-base percentage, he also had the sixth lowest slugging percentage. Still, this was the fifth season in a row Solano had hit at least .280 with a wRC+ of at least the league average. Plus his 8.9% walk rate was a career best.

Garrett Cooper

Garrett Cooper produced slightly below league average numbers in 2023, batting .251/.304/.419 with a 96 wRC+. However, from 2019 through 2022, Cooper was a .274/.350/.444 batter with a 115 wRC+. Cooper struck out 25.8% of the time during this stretch but off-set that with a quality 9.6% walk rate. Cooper is generally regarded as a solid defensive first baseman with +3 DRS and +8 OAA throughout his career.

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