Pittsburgh Pirates: Three More Free Agents With Options to Monitor

Let's look at three more players with options that the Pirates could pursue.

Sep 18, 2023; Los Angeles, California, USA;  Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez (57)
Sep 18, 2023; Los Angeles, California, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez (57) / Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
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Josh Bell

Josh Bell did exactly what you'd expect Josh Bell to do. One half of the season was poor, while the other half was pretty good. Bell now has to face a decision: accept $16.5 million for 2024 or head back into free agency. With his 2023 season, either is possible.

Traded at the start of the rebuild in the 2020-2021 off-season, Bell started the year with the Cleveland Guardians. Going into the All-Star break, Bell hit a meager .230/.319/.381 with a .308 wOBA and 96 wRC+. Bell had an above-average 11.7% walk rate and 21.7% strikeout rate, but he did not hit for much power. Bell had just nine home runs with a .151 isolated slugging percentage.

But Bell seemed to find his groove once he returned from the break. His final 285 plate appearances of the season saw him slash .266/.332/.461 with a .341 wOBA and 114 wRC+. Those are eerily similar numbers to his 2017 rookie campaign when he hit .255/.334/.466 with a .338 wOBA and 108 wRC+.

Bell's second half to 2023 saw his power go in the right direction with a .195 isolated slugging percentage and 13 more home runs. But his plate discipline got worse as he walked in just 8.4% of his trips to the plate with a 22.1% strikeout rate. But neither his walk rate nor strikeout rate in the second half was poor.

Bell still is not a good defensive first baseman. He may have had the worst season with the glove this year. Even though he spent more time as a designated hitter than a first baseman and played the field for less than 500 innings, he still had -5 defensive runs saved and -4 outs above average. Over 1000 innings, he would have had -10 DRS and -8 OAA.

If Bell opts out, I don't think he will make more than $16.5 million in 2024. That might be a reason Bell opts into his current deal. However, Bell could get more money across more years, but at the expense of the amount he makes per year. A three-year deal worth $30 million gets him more than a one-year deal worth $16.5 million. The Pirates need first base help, and Bell could be a potential solution.