Potential first basemen who could be on the trade market the Pittsburgh Pirates should consider

With the Pirates needing help at first base, they should look into the trade market.
May 5, 2024; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; Toronto Blue Jays first baseman Vladimir
May 5, 2024; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; Toronto Blue Jays first baseman Vladimir / Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
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First base has given the Pittsburgh Pirates trouble for years now. The last time they had a first baseman post +3.0 fWAR in a season was Kevin Young in 1999, and two consecutive seasons at +2.0 or greater hasn’t been done since the 1980s. While Connor Joe has been good to start the year, he’s mostly succeeded in a Pirates uniform when playing part-time or platooning. The Pirates also do not have a readily available answer in the minor leagues.

But the Pirates do have a lot of pitching depth they should use in trades. They should be actively looking for long-term pieces for the team that can be put into the lineup as soon as they acquire them. If not that, then a prospect who can come up soon after a trade to fill the void of first base. Today, I want to look at options the Pirates might have on the trade market, including short-term options, long-term options, and prospects. I thought about including draft prospects, but that’s a topic I already covered. You can read about some first base draft prospects here.

Short Term Options for the Pirates

If the Toronto Blue Jays are out of it by summer, they might look to move first baseman Vlad Guerrero Jr. The former MVP candidate hasn’t been able to follow up on his astounding 2021 season when he set records for players as young as he was at the time. Guerrero still has a solid .276/.376/.391 triple-slash through 181 plate appearances, resulting in a 126 wRC+. He’s only struck out 18.1% of the time and is carrying a career-high walk rate of 13.3%. But the power simply hasn’t been there. His ISO clocks in at .115, but there is hope it can improve. 

Guerrero is in the top 98th percentile of both exit velocity (94.4 MPH) and hard-hit rate (58.2%). He is also in the 82nd percentile of barrel rate. Guerrero Jr. is still having trouble lifting the baseball, which has limited his power. Guerrero is only controlled through 2025, however. 

If you want someone hitting for a ton of power, look no further than Pete Alonso. Alonso is all about power. He is hitting .230/.317/.461. He is walking at a respectable 9.3% rate with an 18.8% K%. Alonso has nine home runs with a .230 isolated slugging percentage, but there’s definitely room for improvement. Alonso has a .263 expected batting average and a .232 batting average on balls in play compared to his career average of .257. He also has a .350 xwOBA and .477 xSLG%.

Alonso’s defense at first base has always received mixed reviews. This year, he has -2 defensive runs saved, -1 out above average, and -3.4 UZR/150. In his career, he’s typically graded out as above average in the eyes of DRS, average per UZR/150, and below average in OAA. But overall, he’s not a major detriment at the position. Alonso is a rental as he becomes a free agent after this season.

Someone who has flown under the radar for years is Christian Walker. He has hit over 30 home runs in 2022 and 2023 and has been the best defensive 1B in baseball during the five seasons. He’s off to another good start as he’s hitting .265/.377/.437 with a .363 wOBA and 134 wRC+. While his 24.2% strikeout rate is a career-high, so is his 14.2% walk rate. Walker isn’t hitting for much power early on into 2024 and has just a .172 ISO compared to .235+ in 2022-2023, but there is hope for more power.

Walker has a career-high 17.2% barrel rate and 90.5 MPH exit velocity. His barrel rate is one of the best in baseball. His .400 xwOBA is also one of the best and clocks into the 95th percentile. Walker’s .472 xSLG% is more akin to what he’s done in 2022-2023. He’s basically already secured his third straight Gold Glove at first base. Walker has +9 DRS and +6 OAA. No other player has reached more than four in either stat. Walker is also only a rental and becomes a free agent after this season.