It’s not immediately clear how many contenders will be pushing for upgrades at first base, with the Yankees perhaps representing the team with the clearest need. But other teams may still see an opportunity to add some pop with a platoon or bench option. Here are the first basemen that may be available over the next several weeks:
Yonder Alonso, Athletics | $4MM in 2017
One of the breakout hitters of the current season, Alonso has exhibited fundamental changes in his approach that give cause to believe he’ll keep destroying baseballs down the stretch. While there has been some chatter about a possible extension with Oakland, the smart money remains on a trade. Teams that buy into Alonso as a middle-of-the-order bat with patience and power will no doubt see real value in pursuing him as an affordable rental player.
Lucas Duda, Mets | $7.25MM in 2017
An underappreciated offensive force, Duda has returned from an injury-riddled 2016 season as a potent left-handed bat. His batting average will never impress, but he draws plenty of walks and brings top-end power. Thus far in 2017, Duda has carried a career-best .286 isolated slugging mark and has swatted 14 long balls in 62 games. He’s not all that expensive, either.
John Jaso, Pirates | $4MM in 2017
Once quite an underappreciated hitter in his own right, Jaso hasn’t kept up his productivity since landing in Pittsburgh. He’s now a solid-average hitter on the whole, and that has held true even as he has swapped out some of his legendary plate discipline for power this year. Though Jaso has seven dingers in 203 plate appearances, putting him on pace to easily set a career high, he has uncharacteristically posted a 46:20 K/BB ratio and is reaching base at only a .320 clip. While he has mostly played the outfield this year, Jaso would most likely be targeted as a bench bat who could factor into the mix at first.
Controlled Through 2018
Matt Adams, Braves | $2.8MM in 2017; arb-eligible in 2018
We haven’t seen a large enough sample of Freddie Freeman at third base to know how long that experiment will continue. But the Atlanta front office won’t just be measuring the star’s capacity for the hot corner; it’ll also be weighing Adams’s trade value. With another year of control remaining, the 28-year-old could command a somewhat higher price than some of the pure rental options. Adams has produced at a .292/.339/.608 clip, with 13 homers, in his 186 plate appearances in a Braves uniform.
Mike Napoli, Rangers | $6MM in 2017; $11MM club option ($2.5MM buyout) in 2018
The 35-year-old isn’t hitting well at all in his latest run with the Rangers. Despite a healthy tally of 18 home runs, Napoli carries a .194/.273/.437 batting line over 283 trips to the plate. That’ll surely improve as his .215 BABIP moves north, but if the Rangers end up turning into a seller, Napoli would likely end up being moved mostly for some cost savings. (Note: I thought about including Joey Gallo on this list, but he seems lined up to step in for Napoli in 2018.)
Victor Martinez, Tigers | $18MM in 2017; $18MM in 2018
He’s obviously not really an option to play first base, but Martinez gets consideration here since he doesn’t fit anywhere else. At 38 years of age, VMart has stumbled to a .253/.322/.366 slash with just six long balls in his 286 trips to the plate. He is still producing a 40.0% hard-hit rate, so perhaps there’s hope of a turnaround yet, but the contract is obviously well under water.
Jose Abreu, White Sox | $10.825MM in 2017; arb-eligible in 2018-19
Though he finished strong last year, Abreu faced some questions entering his age-30 campaign. He has answered with a .299/.349/.522 batting line and 16 long balls over 375 plate appearances. While Abreu probably won’t ever be quite the force he was in his debut campaign, back in 2014, he looks like a good bet to continue producing high-end offensive numbers through the end of his contract. The White Sox haven’t seemed as inclined to deal Abreu as other stars, but it’s hard to imagine the organization wouldn’t be amenable to trading him in the right circumstances.
Justin Smoak, Blue Jays | $4.125MM in 2017; $4.125MM in 2018; $6MM club option ($250K buyout) in 2019
The former top prospect has turned his extension from a perceived head-scratcher to a huge win for Toronto. Smoak has already set a personal high with 23 home runs and made his first All-Star appearance. Even if the Jays remain mired in the AL East cellar, though, it’ll be hard for them to part with a player who now looks like a solid bet to provide good value on an affordable contract over the next several seasons.
Kendrys Morales, Blue Jays | $10MM in 2017; $11MM in 2018; $12MM in 2019
Already 34 years of age, and hardly a bargain, Morales doesn’t look like a terribly appealing trade candidate. He’s hitting at an unimpressive .252/.300/.454 rate since arriving in Toronto. While it’s reasonable to hope for improvement, it’d also be hard for rival organizations to stake such a big commitment on an aging player — particularly given the alternatives.
Justin Bour, Marlins | First-time arb-eligible in 2018
Entering the year, Bour had established himself as a surprisingly effective slugger — though he was limited both by an inability to play anywhere but first and questions about his abilities against left-handed pitching. He has responded with a huge arbitration platform season in which he has not only continued to pummel right-handers, but owns a .333/.412/.667 slash in 68 plate appearances without the platoon advantage.
Tommy Joseph, Phillies | First-time arb-eligible in 2020
With Rhys Hoskins clamoring for a promotion, it’s possible to imagine the Phillies shopping Joseph. But will there be much demand? He’s hitting at a solid .252/.313/.466 rate on the year, but that’s not quite the level he showed last year and surely not enough to warrant a regular job on a first-division club. As a righty bat that can only play at first base, Joseph is a limited player.
C.J. Cron, Angels | First-time arb-eligible in 2018
Much the same is true of Cron, who has stumbled badly this year after putting up slightly above-average offensive numbers over the prior three seasons. He’s back in the majors after a stint at Triple-A, but could be sent elsewhere if improvements are not forthcoming.
Brandon Belt, Giants | $2.8MM in 2017; $64MM from 2018-21
A polished and extremely steady hitter who only just turned 29, Belt looks like a solid asset for San Francisco. He’s not exactly cheap, but the future commitment is more than fair for a still-youthful player who owns a lifetime 127 OPS+. While the Giants will likely at least consider proposals, there’s little chance they could reliably replace his production without spending more in the upcoming offseason.
Joey Votto, Reds | $22MM in 2017; $157MM from 2018-23 (including $7MM buyout on 2024 club option)
Still an awesome hitter, Votto has full no-trade rights and doesn’t appear to be on the market this summer. But nothing is bolted to the floors in Cincinnati, and the contract is perhaps aging better than has been feared, so he has to be mentioned.
Miguel Cabrera, Tigers | $28MM in 2017; $192MM from 2018-23 (including $8MM buyout on 2024 vesting club option)
Cabrera is currently in the midst of his worst season since his debut campaign. And he’s 34 … and is owed gobs of cash over the next six years. It’s far too soon to count out a full-blown turnaround at the plate from the outstanding slugger, but this is a tough contract to move at present. Cabrera also controls his own destiny and can veto any deal.
Currently in the Minors
Pedro Alvarez, Orioles | Minor-league contract
The 30-year-old has attempted a move to the outfield at Triple-A. It’s doubtful that a contender will play him on the grass late in 2017, though perhaps Alvarez could end up functioning as a power source off the bench. He has not hit particularly well at Norfolk this year, but has a long history of solidly above-average output with excellent power against right-handed pitching.
Byung Ho Park, Twins | $2.75MM in 2017; $6.5MM through 2019 (including $500K buyout of 2020 club option)
Things just aren’t going well for the former KBO star. He showed plenty of pop, but also big holes, in his MLB debut last year, leading to a demotion. While he no doubt hoped to resolve some of the lingering on-base issues, it has all fallen apart thus far in 2017. Park is hitting just .243/.301/.391 with four home runs in his 249 plate appearances in the highest level of the minors.