Previewing The 2023-24 Free Agent Class: First Base

With the common season winding down, a variety of groups (and their fanbases) are already beginning to flip their consideration in direction of the offseason. Figuring out free agent targets is an enormous a part of that prep work, so it’s value taking an early take a look at the gamers who’ll be obtainable on the open market.

Over the approaching weeks, MLBTR will go across the diamond to preview the free agent class. Anthony Franco already took a take a look at the catching market, and subsequent up can be a rundown of the primary base choices obtainable this winter.

Word: solely gamers who’ve been on an MLB roster in 2023 are included for this train. Ages listed are for the 2024 season.

Potential On a regular basis Choices

Bellinger can be checked out as an outfielder firstly, however the normal lack of high quality bats could lead on groups with first base vacancies to think about him as effectively. The Cubs have given Bellinger 302 innings on the place this season (with constructive defensive scores to indicate for it), and the current promotion of high middle subject prospect prospect Pete Crow-Armstrong may imply much more time there for Bellinger within the ultimate few weeks.

Non-tendered by the Dodgers final yr, Bellinger has loved a vastly profitable rebound with the Cubs. In 479 plate appearances, the previous NL MVP has posted an enormous .318/.361/.551 batting line with 25 dwelling runs, 20 stolen bases and a career-low 15.9% strikeout fee. He’s strolling on the lowest fee of his profession (6.7%) and chasing balls out of the strike zone way over he did at his peak. Nonetheless, he’s additionally sporting career-high contact charges on pitches off the plate (72.3%) and pitches throughout the strike zone (86.9%).

Bellinger’s capability to the play the outfield is effective sufficient that it’s onerous to think about a group signing him to play solely first base, however groups are extra prepared than ever to maneuver gamers across the diamond primarily based on matchups. Bellinger has hit so effectively — even with lackluster quality-of-contact marks on Statcast — that groups will doubtless be prepared to maneuver some items round simply to get his bat within the lineup.

Candelario has primarily performed third base this season, and he’s drawn high quality marks for his glovework there. The Cubs have given him ample run at first base since buying him, nevertheless. And as with Bellinger, some groups might merely need to signal the bat — even when it means taking part in Candelario at a less-demanding place on the defensive spectrum.

The final two weeks have seen Candelario fall into his most extended stoop of the season. He’s gone simply 5-for-52 over his previous 17 video games. That’s taken a little bit of the shine off an in any other case glorious rebound season, however the switch-hitter was batting .272/.355/.495 as lately as Aug. 23 and nonetheless sports activities a comfortably above-average .253/.338/.473 slash (118 wRC+) general this season.

Though Candelario’s 2022 season was tough sufficient to get him non-tendered by the Tigers, he’s bounced again in an enormous manner and now has three effectively above-average offensive seasons previously 4 years. This may doubtless be his second season with not less than three wins above substitute previously three years, and Candelario was on tempo to simply eclipse that mark within the shortened 2020 season as effectively.

Hoskins would doubtless have been one of many high energy bats available on the market with a wholesome 2023 season, however issues in fact didn’t pan out that manner. The 30-year-old adopted final season’s six postseason dwelling runs with an enormous spring coaching … however noticed his platform free-agent yr finish earlier than it started when he suffered a torn ACL only a week earlier than the season started.

Whereas he doesn’t fairly match Khris Davis ranges of freakish consistency, Hoskins batted precisely .246 or .247 and belted between 27 and 34 dwelling runs in 4 of the 5 seasons from 2018-22. He hit .241/.350/.483 with 130 dwelling runs, a hefty 13.2% stroll fee and a 24.1% strikeout fee that’s larger than common but in addition a very good bit decrease than many sluggers of this ilk have a tendency to provide.

As one would count on, the righty-swinging Hoskins is healthier in opposition to left-handers than in opposition to right-handers, however he’s posted significantly better-than-average OBP and energy numbers in opposition to every. There’ll absolutely be some varied, inventive contract constructions mentioned. We’ve seen fellow Scott Boras purchasers take varied paths lately; Bellinger signed a straight one-year take care of the Cubs after a down season, whereas Michael Conforto inked a two-year, $36MM take care of a conditional opt-out (contingent on attain 350 plate appearances) after he, like Hoskins in 2023, missed your complete 2022 season because of harm.

He isn’t an awesome defensive first baseman, however a wholesome Hoskins may be the very best pure slugger not named Shohei Ohtani on this winter’s free-agent class.

Maybe it’s a stretch to name Santana a possible on a regular basis choice when he’ll flip 38 subsequent yr and is wrapping up a below-average offensive season on the entire. However the Pirates and Brewers have each given him loads of taking part in time, and Santana nonetheless grades out as a robust defensive choice at his place. He’s nonetheless drawing walks at a ten.4% clip and has by no means posted a stroll fee south of 10%. He’s presently sitting on 19 dwelling runs, which might be his third straight season with precisely that complete.

Santana’s .251 common on balls in play seems to be like a product of poor luck at first look, however he’s hit a whopping 26 infield flies this season. He’s lengthy been susceptible to pop-ups, which helps to clarify his profession .258 BABIP. Nonetheless, even when there’s no cause to count on a speedy turnaround on his luck on balls in play, Santana is an efficient defensive first baseman who walks sufficient to submit near a median OBP and who clearly nonetheless has 20-homer pop. A contender won’t plug him in at first base, but when a rebuilding group in search of a veteran to flip on the deadline — simply because the Pirates did this season — may view him as a possible common.

Platoon and Half-Time Bats

The previous Giants cornerstone has had a resurgent yr in Toronto, hitting .252/.371/.473 with 16 dwelling runs in 380 plate appearances. Belt solely has 36 plate appearances in opposition to lefties — they haven’t gone effectively — however has tattooed right-handed pitching. This yr’s 34.7% strikeout fee is a obvious purple flag, however Belt has additionally walked at an enormous 15.8% fee. Belt will flip 36 subsequent April, so count on a one- or two-year deal, however he’s proven there’s nonetheless loads of energy left in his bat.

The 2023 season has been one Choi wish to overlook. After present process elbow surgical procedure within the offseason, he suffered a strained Achilles tendon early within the yr and wound up lacking about three months of motion. Choi performed in simply 23 video games with the Pirates earlier than being traded to the Padres, and after seven video games in San Diego he suffered a Lisfranc harm in his foot and returned to the injured checklist. Choi is hitting simply .179/.239/.440 in 92 plate appearances, however from 2017-22 he posted a .245/.350/.436 output. He’s by no means hit lefties effectively, however he’s a .244/.350/.455 hitter in opposition to right-handed pitching.

Cooper’s constant productiveness has all the time flown beneath the radar, partly as a result of he’s spent most of his profession taking part in for non-contending groups in Miami and likewise partly as a result of he’s regularly been injured. This hasn’t been his finest yr (.256/.300/.420, 16 homers), however Cooper hit .274/.350/.444 in 1273 plate appearances from 2017-22 and carries a lifetime .270/.337/.435 line within the majors. His occasional dalliances within the outfield haven’t drawn good opinions, however Cooper has above-average marks at first base, each in his profession and in 2023.

The previous 30-homer slugger has been out since mid-August because of a again harm and likewise missed six weeks earlier within the season with a neck harm. He hasn’t had his finest season when wholesome, hitting .252/.299/.441 in 274 plate appearances. He’d been heating up on the plate, nevertheless, batting .287/.333/.470 in 123 plate appearances between these two IL stints. It’s been a troublesome yr, however Cron hit .260/.331/.490 with 116 dwelling runs from 2018-22. Between his monitor report and the shortage of high quality hitters available on the market, he’ll get an enormous league deal and common time at first base and designated hitter someplace.

Gallo is athletic sufficient to deal with any outfield place, however a Twins’ group deep in choices on the grass has given him 322 innings at first base. He’s a stable defensive first baseman however hasn’t discovered his previous All-Star kind offensively. Gallo had a robust first couple weeks within the Twin Cities however has slumped since Might and now carries a .177/.301/.440 line over 332 plate appearances. The sub-Mendoza common is nothing new, however this yr’s 42.8% strikeout fee is excessive even by Gallo’s requirements. He has hit 21 homers and walked at an enormous 14.5% clip, resulting in a roughly common wRC+ determine (103). That’s nonetheless not the bounceback the Minnesota entrance workplace envisioned when guaranteeing him $11MM final winter.

Solano’s out-of-nowhere emergence as a high quality large league hitter after signing a minor league take care of the Giants heading into his age-31 season stays outstanding. He’s not slowing down in 2023. The Twins inked him to a one-year, $2MM deal that’s confirmed to be a discount, as he’s slashed .292/.377/.415 with 5 homers whereas taking part in first base, second base and third base. He ought to get a increase to fill the same multi-positional function with a group in 2024.

Rebound Hopefuls and Depth choices

The A’s signed Aguilar to a one-year deal however launched him in June after 115 plate appearances of effectively below-average manufacturing. He’s since signed a minor league take care of the Braves and is hitting .287/.393/.410 in Triple-A. The times of Aguilar trying like a real energy risk may be behind us, however he’ll nonetheless draw curiosity on a minor league deal.

Calhoun posted a .906 OPS in Triple-A between the Dodgers and Yankees organizations earlier than an August commerce to Cleveland resulted in a direct name to the MLB roster. He entered the yr with simply 44 innings at first base in his profession however has already logged 192 with the Guardians, whereas hitting .241/.325/.398 in 123 plate appearances. Calhoun hit .208/.269/.343 in 606 plate appearances from 2021-22, however he’s been a roughly common hitter this yr and has loads of expertise within the outfield corners as effectively.

Gurriel was a fixture within the Astros’ lineup from 2016-22 however needed to accept a minor league take care of the Marlins this offseason on the heels of down yr in his ultimate yr with Houston. He’s now posted a .244/.294/.359 line in his previous 892 plate appearances and can flip 40 subsequent June.

Hosmer signed an enormous league take care of the Cubs after being launched by the Purple Sox this winter however wasn’t capable of produce in 100 plate appearances earlier than being launched a second time in late Might. He’s been unsigned since. Any group can signal Hosmer and solely owe him the league minimal for any time on the large league roster, because the Padres are nonetheless paying the majority of his contract, which runs by means of 2025. He’s hit .266/.331/.384 in his previous 1084 journeys to the plate.

The previous D-backs third baseman broke camp with the Angels after signing a minor league deal however appeared in solely 19 video games earlier than being designated for task and launched. Lamb popped 59 homers with Arizona from 2016-17, however shoulder accidents tanked that promising trajectory. He’s a .205/.306/.359 hitter in his previous 898 MLB plate appearances (2018-23).

Mancini’s two-year take care of the Cubs didn’t work out for both get together this winter. He hit .234/.299/.336 in 263 plate appearances — essentially the most tepid manufacturing of his profession up to now. The Cubs are paying Mancini’s $7MM wage subsequent yr, so any group can signal him and solely owe the league minimal for any time spent on the large league roster. His 35-homer marketing campaign in 2019 is a distant reminiscence, however Mancini is a beloved clubhouse presence who hit .247/.323/.412 from 2021-22 after his inspirational return from colon most cancers.

Launched by the Reds heading into the ultimate season of his four-year, $64MM deal, Moustakas caught on with the Rockies and hit effectively sufficient to benefit commerce consideration from the Angels. His bat has tailed off since. The once-formidable slugger has batted .228/.294/.377 over his previous 855 MLB plate appearances.

Myers is the third straight participant on this checklist to be launched by the Reds this season. (Mancini briefly signed a minor league deal there after being lower free by the Cubs.) His one-year, $7.5MM deal didn’t pan out as hoped. Myers hit simply .189/.257/.283 in 141 plate appearances, placing out at a 34% clip. He’s a succesful outfielder along with his work at first base and hit .256/.334/.434 with 17 homers as lately as 2021. He hasn’t signed since being launched and might need to take a minor league deal this winter.

Ruf can crush lefties (profession .270/.368/.512, 141 wRC+), however he appeared in simply 20 video games this season because of harm and sluggish efficiency. He was a terrific discover for the 2020-21 Giants, however he turned 37 in July and has now had consecutive below-average seasons on the plate.

Participant Choices

  • Josh Bell (31), $16.5MM participant choice; ineligible for qualifying supply (traded midseason)

Bell seemed like a lock to train his participant choice not way back, however he’s been on a tear since being traded from Cleveland to Miami and will have planted the seeds for that turnaround even sooner than the swap itself. He’s been hitting fly-balls on the highest charges of his profession since early June, and the outcomes have been noticeable. The switch-hitter is batting .276/.340/.515 in 148 plate appearances with the Fish and now carries a .262/.322/.472 output in his previous 339 plate appearances.

There’s nonetheless an opportunity, if not a probability, that Bell will train his participant choice. However he’s been producing at a decidedly above-average degree for greater than three months now. It’s the inverse of final yr’s season, whereby Bell had a productive run with the Nationals however slumped late in his tenure there and cratered following a commerce to the Padres. Bell nonetheless secured a two-year, $33MM deal on the heels of that season, and whereas he most likely received’t match his present AAV on a multi-year deal in free company, it’s more and more possible to see him declining that participant choice and signing a multi-year take care of a bigger complete and decrease AAV.

  • Justin Turner (39), $13.4MM participant choice with a $6.7MM buyout; ineligible for qualifying supply (has beforehand acquired a QO in his profession)

Whether or not a group would set up Turner as its on a regular basis first baseman isn’t clear, however the Purple Sox have given him 249 innings there in 2023. On the very least, he may presumably deal with a number of infield spots and log ample time at DH with a brand new group.

There may be questions on Turner’s defensive outlook at this level, however there’s no questioning his bat. He continues to age like advantageous wine on the plate, hitting .285/.355/.480 (122 wRC+) with 23 dwelling runs, an 8.4% stroll fee and 16.9% strikeout fee. Turner bas grow to be the embodiment of the “skilled hitter” classification, and with such a hefty buyout on that participant choice, he should not have any time toppling a web $6.7MM in free company.

Age goes to restrict Turner to a one- or two-year deal, however he’s among the best hitters available on the market and will command a robust annual fee of pay with a contending group.

Membership Choice

  • Joey Votto (40), $20MM membership choice with a $7MM buyout

Votto instructed Gordon Wittenmyer of the Cincinnati Enquirer earlier this month that he hasn’t made any selections on his future. Solely 40 certified hitters in MLB historical past have gotten on base at a better clip than Votto’s profession mark of .410, however he’s adopted up a staggering 2021 renaissance (.266/.375/.563, 36 homers in 129 video games) with a .204/.313/.405 slash in his previous two seasons — a complete of 575 plate appearances.

The Reds will certainly purchase Votto out somewhat than pay him a web $13MM for his age-40 season, but when the Canadian-born slugger needs to proceed his taking part in profession, doing so in Cincinnati will stay excessive on his checklist. Whether or not he earnestly fields curiosity from different groups stays to be seen, however his monitor report, plate self-discipline and energy — he hit 14 homers in 199 plate appearances this yr — would doubtless collect curiosity on a one-year deal.