Pittsburgh Pirates: Three Things That Must Be Accomplished This Off-Season

The Pirates must accomplish these three things this off-season.
Jun 6, 2023; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA;  Pittsburgh Pirates general manager Ben Cherington looks
Jun 6, 2023; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates general manager Ben Cherington looks / Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
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Find A First Baseman

First base was also a massive need last off-season when the Pirates ended their 2022 campaign with Zack Collins and Diego Castillo atop their first base depth chart. The first base depth chart isn’t quite as bad as it was 365 days ago, with Connor Joe and Alfonso Rivas at the top now, but it still is nowhere near good enough.

The free agent market is fairly thin at first base. Rhys Hoskins is coming off ACL surgery, but was both a consistent and strong presence in the line-up from 2017 to 2022. Former Pirates’ first basemen Carlos Santana and Josh Bell may also be potential targets. Santana, however, is going into his age-38 campaign, and Bell had a horrible first half in Cleveland before heating up with the Miami Marlins in the second half. Donovan Solano would certainly be an unconventional first base option, as he’s more of a contact focused hitter, but a decent one at that.

There are a handful of other veteran platoon options out on the free agent market. Brandon Belt, Garrett Cooper, Ji-Man Choi, and C.J. Cron. None of these options are terrible, but will likely require a platoon partner, as they’re best suited to face opposite-handed pitching most of the time.

The trade market is even shallower. The Chicago White Sox may potentially listen to offers regarding former first round pick Andrew Vaughn. Vaughn may only be a slightly above league average batter over the last two seasons, but 2024 will only mark his age-26 season, and it wasn’t all that long ago he was considered a premier prospect in baseball.

One extremely bold option would be Pete Alonso of the New York Mets. This is far from a guarantee that the Mets will even consider trading Alonso, and it would probably take a fairly big prospect package to get him. Alonso is coming off a year where he hit .217/.318/.504 with 46 dingers, and a 121 wRC+. I’d bet that his batting average and OBP rebound next season. He still does not strike out all that much, and his BABIP dropped from .277 the last two years to .205 this season. I am not saying he is a realistic option, but one that wouldn’t be all that surprising if the Mets were to listen to offers involving the Polar Bear.

Another bold option would be division rival first baseman Paul Goldschmidt. After taking home National League MVP in 2022, Goldy followed that up with a fairly disappointing, but still overall still solid 2023. In 687 plate appearances, Goldschmidt batted .268/.363/.447 with 25 homers and a 122 wRC+. Even though this was a down year for Goldschmidt’s lofty standards, some bad luck is to blame as his BABIP fell 20 points under his career average, and xwOBA projected him as a slightly better hitter. This one might have slightly more traction that Alonso, but still a far cry from even unlikely.

The rest of the first base trade market involves a handful of other options who may or may not be available, such as Seth Brown, Ty France, Vinnie Pasquantino, Nick Pratto, and Josh Naylor. For most of these guys, it’s far from a guarantee that they will be on the market. However, it also shouldn’t be all that surprising either if they are moved or at least involved in trade rumors.

Regardless of how the first base hole is filled, it needs to be filled in a meaningful way. Unlike pitching, there isn’t a plethora of potential prospects who could fill this void. However, I see this as slightly less of a priority than pitching because while it’s far from a good duo, Joe/Rivas could at least get it done until they found another, more regular/permanent option. Filling in the two rotation spots, rather than just one with Priester, Contreras, Jackson, Falter, or Ortiz is worse than platooning Joe/Rivas, in my opinion.