Pittsburgh Pirates: Three First Base Options in Free Agency (And One via Trade!)

Division Series - Minnesota Twins v Houston Astros - Game Two
Division Series - Minnesota Twins v Houston Astros - Game Two / Bob Levey/GettyImages
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Dominic Smith

Dominic Smith is the final free agent option I have on this list. He's likely the cheapest fix for this hole and gives the Pirates another platoon partner for Connor Joe at the position. He is also capable of playing in the outfield, which is another area the Pirates are looking to improve this off-season.

Smith hit .254/.326/366 (90 wRC+) in 586 PAs last season for the Washington Nationals as their primary first baseman before being non-tendered this off-season. Smith was a plus defender at the position, worth 5 defensive runs saved (DRS) and a 5.1 ultimate zone rating (UZR) in 1,244.2 innings, the latter half leading qualified first basemen in baseball.

In the everyday first baseman role Smith leads a lot to be desired, only accumulating a 0.1 fWAR over the course of a full season. However, he would be best used in a platoon, like Ford, as he fairs much better against right-handed pitching than left-handed pitching. In 2022 he had a 102 wRC+ against righties in 414 PAs, as opposed to a 63 wRC+ in 172 PAs against lefties.

Compared to other options in the Pirates range in free agency, those numbers against righties would work for the Pirates. For example Carlos Santana had a 95 wRC+ vs righties and Rowdy Tellez had an 83 wRC+. Smith also has more power potential than he displayed last year and in September that began to show as he hit .241/.315/.532 (120 wRC+) with 6 home runs in 89 PAs in the month of September.

Smith is the youngest free agent on this list, his 29th birthday to come after the season has begun. He should be available in a similar range as Ford, around the $3M mark while giving the Pirates more flexibility in the field with his experience as an outfielder. His 15.5% strikeout rate, which ranked in the 88th percentile across baseball, would also would bring a much needed balance of contact to a team that struck out 24% of the time, the 9th most in the majors.