This is one in a series of articles where the PBN staff list their top free agents who the Pirates should target this offseason.
Spurred by a burgeoning youth movement and free agent acquisitions like the beloved Andrew McCutchen, the Pirates improved by 14 games between 2022 and 2023.
With that taste of success, both the Pirates faithful and team management hope to continue their upward trend in 2024. The club should continue to get a shot in the arm through player call-ups—MLB Pipeline’s No. 3 prospect, Paul Skenes, is expected to make his big league debut this coming season—but there’s still work for general manager Ben Cherington to do in order to give his club the best chance of succeeding.
With five days past since the conclusion of the World Series, MLB’s free agency period is officially open for business. Here’s a look at three players the Pirates should sign to bolster their roster in 2024.
1. Rhys Hoskins
A mainstay with the Phillies for the past half decade, the 30-year old first baseman missed all of 2023 due to an ACL tear suffered in a spring training contest. With 148 home runs in parts of six major league seasons—including the pandemic-shortened 2020 season and a 50-game rookie campaign—Hoskins would add some much-needed pop to Pittsburgh’s lineup.
Given his season-ending injury, Hoskins might be in line for a one-year ‘prove it’ deal, which could give Pittsburgh the financial flexibility to reel him in. He’s a below-average defender for his career, but for a Pirates club that ranked in the bottom third of the league offensively, his bat seems hard to say no to… not to mention his postseason experience, like this tape measure blast to help send the Phillies to the World Series.
2. Sean Manaea
The Pirates’ 2023 season showed that you can never have enough pitching, as manager Derek Shelton finished the last two months with a rotation of Mitch Keller, Johan Oviedo and whoever else had a pulse. They should have plenty of young guns in the system next season as Paul Skenes and Jared Jones make their big league debuts, but injuries are common and young pitchers are notoriously fickle.
Sean Manaea gives a solid—if streaky—supplementary option. The 6-foot-5 lefty spent time in the starting rotation and the bullpen with the Giants last season, a team first mentality that could help him fit in no matter what the Pirates need from him. Manaea mostly throws a mix of four-seam fastballs, sliders and changeups, but he’s also developed a sweeper.
He probably won’t ever be a Cy Young candidate, but with a career ERA of 4.10 Manaea provides a solid starting option to flesh out the Pirates’ rotation.
3. Harrison Bader
The Pirates’ outfield defense was a weak point in 2023, with Jack Suwinski and Bryan Reynolds passable (if unspectacular) options, Henry Davis downright bad and Ji-hwan Bae splitting time between center field and second base.
Bader won a gold glove at center field in 2021 and possesses excellent speed and arm strength, the kind of spark plug player who could quickly become a fan favorite. While far from consistent, his bat has some pop, and if you’re getting gold glove-caliber outfield defense, offense is little more than icing on the cake.
Even better is the fact that Bader can wreak havoc on the basepaths with an 85th-percentile sprint speed. The 29-year-old spent much of his career in the NL Central, playing for the St. Louis Cardinals for parts of six seasons—and he went to the Cincinnati Reds at the deadline last season.
A solid, cheap veteran at a position that desperately needs it, the Pirates and Bader seem like an excellent match.