First Base Help
The fourth and final free agent one of the writers predicts the Pirates to go after is veteran first baseman Brandon Belt, their 45th top free agent listed. After years on the West Coast with the San Francisco Giants, Belt took his talents North of the border for the Toronto Blue Jays.
To Belt’s credit, he hit very well, slashing .254/.369/.490 with a .369 wOBA and 138 wRC+. Belt went yard 19 times and drew a walk in 15.1% of his plate appearances, nearly matching his career-high walk rate of 15.9% set in 2016. Belt’s K% has gone up the last few seasons, but after sitting around 27% in 2021-2022, he saw it rise all the way to 34.9% this past year.
Like Heyward, most of Belt’s plate appearances were taken against right-handed pitching. Only 39 of his 381 trips to the dish were taken against lefties. But Belt was one of the most productive platoon-side hitters. His wRC+ of 146, OPS of .890, and wOBA of .381 ranked top 15 among the 203 batters in 2023 with at least 300 plate appearances against right-handed pitching.
Belt played most of his games as the Blue Jays’ designated hitter, and while he may no longer be the top-of-the-line defensive first baseman he was in his prime, he can still field the position with some grace. While DRS pinned him as a negative defender at just -2 runs, outs above average had him at +1, and UZR/150 clocked him at +2.6. He can hold his own at the position despite his advancing age.
But the contract seems a bit much for an older platoon first baseman. MLB Trade Rumors estimates Belt at one-year/$15 million. At that price, the Pirates may as well just go the extra mile and pursue Rhys Hoskins, who they have at two years/$36 million, which would only pay him $3 million more than Belt in 2024, based on their estimate. Belt has pondered retirement in the recent past, too, but if he can secure $15 million in 2024, I don’t see him hanging up the spikes just yet. Belt is still a good player, and while I wouldn’t be upset if the Pirates were to pursue him, I also think $15 million would be an overpay.
I would be totally okay if this ended up being the most significant acquisition the Pirates make this off-season. That adds two potential good starting pitchers, a decent right fielder, and a solid first baseman. I would like them to aim a little higher and maybe acquire at least one of the better starting pitchers available or see if the trade market holds a better option, but these are not bad options for the Pirates to pursue.