We’ve seen a few teams plug needs at the first base position thus far. But others have unfilled openings — or, alternatively, could pursue upgrades as a means of plugging in some desired offense. On the supply side … well, if you just glance at the list of free agents, you may be disappointed. But a closer look shows quite a few more possibilities.
If you want an established bat coming off of a good season, you’ll have to head onto the trade market. Josh Bell of the Pirates and Trey Mancini of the Orioles are each 27-year-old, first-time arb-eligible sluggers. They’re the cream of the crop … unless the Cubs are open to listening to offers on Anthony Rizzo. There’s no clear indication of that, but the club has said it’s willing to consider anything and spurned Rizzo’s interest in pursuing an extension.
Prefer a rental? It’s not clear where the dealing will end for the Indians, but Carlos Santana and his $20MM salary could well be available (even if the Mariners are covering a piece of it already). He had quite a nice season last year, marrying typically exceptional plate discipline with a power rebound.
There are also a few other, subtler possible targets that aren’t true first basemen but could be seen as options there. Kyle Schwarber of the Cubs and free agent Nicholas Castellanos are each somewhat awkward in the corner outfield. But with their backgrounds coming in more challenging infield spots (catcher and third base, respectively), it stands to reason they’d be capable of wielding the leather at first.
Outside of Castellanos, free agency is a bit limited. Left-handed hitters Eric Thames and Mitch Moreland were each productive in 2019 and look like good options, particularly for clubs that have platoon partners in mind. Yonder Alonso and Matt Adams have had their moments in recent years but will each be looking to bounce back. Ditto Adams teammate Ryan Zimmerman, who’ll either re-sign with the Nationals or retire. Wilmer Flores is a bit of an under-the-radar possibility. He had a nice season with the bat last year but hasn’t been terribly valuable elsewhere in the infield. Perhaps he’d be seen as an option at first by some clubs.
If a team would rather land a younger, longer-term option, the Mets have a pair of possibilities on offer. Dominic Smith doesn’t appear to have anywhere to play in New York with Peter Alonso hogging all the action at first. While J.D. Davis is capable of playing third base or the corner outfield, which boosts his appeal, some teams would surely rather stash his bat (if they believe in it) at first base rather than exposing him to the more difficult defensive positions.
There are some other relatively youthful possibilities out there. The Mariners’ Daniel Vogelbach and Marlins’ Garrett Cooper have shown intriguing skills at times and ought to be available. The Rays have a loaded deck of lefty sluggers after signing Yoshitomo Tsutsugo. Indications are he’ll be used in the outfield and at third base, but it’s hypothetically possible the club could consider offers on Ji-Man Choi and Nate Lowe. Bounceback targets include Ronald Guzman of the Rangers and free agent Greg Bird.
Teams that would rather a veteran bat and aren’t afraid of talking big dollar signs have a few other candidates to consider. The Padres (Wil Myers), Giants (Brandon Belt), and Cardinals (Matt Carpenter, Jose Martinez) could all have interest in structuring deals. If the preference is for veteran depth without any commitment, then Mark Reynolds, Kendrys Morales, and Lucas Duda should all be available for little more than a non-roster invite.