Pittsburgh Pirates: Rhys Hoskins Should Be Their Top Free Agent Target

The Athletic is estimating that Rhys Hoskins will make just $12 million next season. If that happens to be within the ballpark, the Pirates need to be all-in on Hoskins.

Jun 13, 2022; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Rhys Hoskins (17)
Jun 13, 2022; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Rhys Hoskins (17) / Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The Athletic estimates that Rhys Hoskins will sign for $12 million in 2024. If Hoskins' market happens to be within the ballpark of this number, the Pittsburgh Pirates need to go all-in on the veteran first baseman.

The Pittsburgh Pirates need a first baseman. If the season was to start tomorrow, they would be platooning Connor Joe and Alfonso Rivas at first. But one player who would really solve their fist base problems is Rhys Hoskins, who, if The Athletic is anywhere within the ballpark in their estimation of how much the former All-Star first baseman will make in 2024, then the Pirates need to be all over him.

The ones who think Bob Nutting is too cheap to spend this much don’t know how much the Pirates spent last off-season to cover first base. When the Pirates signed Carlos Santana to a one-year deal, and traded for Ji-Man Choi, they added $11.4 million to their payroll to fill the position. Choi made $4.65 million while Santana signed for $6.75 million. If you wanted to, you could add Connor Joe’s 2023 salary of $735,000 to that total, bringing it up to $12.135 million.

Even if we are generous, and say that The Athletic’s number is off, but their estimate is within the ballpark, and Hoskins signs for $15 million a year, there’s still no reason the Pirates can’t go after that. That would be just under $3 million more than what the Pirates spent to add three first basemen last off-season between Santana, Choi, and Joe.

Hoskins would be a saving grace, and could potentially give the Pirates’ their best first baseman in ages. While Hoskins missed all of the 2023 season, he was one of the most consistent power hitters in baseball from 2017 through 2022. In his most recent season with the Philadelphia Phillies, Hoskins hit .247/.332/462 with a .345 wOBA, and 122 wRC+. Hoskins has posted a wRC+ of at least 120 in five of his six MLB seasons. His 25.1% strikeout rate was a career worst, but he carried an above average 10.7% walk rate.

The first baseman hit 30 home runs and posted a .216 isolated slugging percentage. He also hustled out 33 doubles. In terms of power output, this was his worst season, and even that was well above the league average. He has a career .250 ISO, and .492 slugging percentage. 

Hoskins’ defense, however, is nothing to be too proud of. He had one of his better seasons with the leather, with +3 defensive runs saved and a +0.8 UZR/150, but still was worth just -6 outs above average. 2019 remains the only season on Hoskins’ stat sheet that grades him out as an average or better first baseman.

Now of course, this is just an estimated number. But even if the Athletic is only within the ballpark with their estimate, the Pirates need to go after Rhys Hoskins. In my opinion, Hoskins will make more than $12 million, but not a significant amount more. I think The Athletic is in the park with their estimation, and will get something in the $14-16 million range. I could also see Hoskins getting a second team or player option included in the deal. Either way, whether he makes $12 million or $16 million in 2024, he would be well within what the Pirates should be willing to spend at first base.

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