Who’s on first continues to be more than an all-time comedic question for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
It was a question at the end of last season when Michael Chavis for designated for assignment in September.
It was a question over the winter and into spring training after Ji-Man Choi was acquired in a trade and Carlos Santana was signed as a free agent.
It is a question again now after the Pirates traded Santana to the Milwaukee Brewers last Thursday and Choi to the San Diego Padres on Tuesday.
Connor Joe started at first base in the first two games after Choi was dealt. Alfonso Rivas, a first baseman and one of three players acquired from the Padres, figures to be in the mix, too.
Rivas is expected to join the Pirates on Thursday night in Milwaukee when they begin a four-game series against the Brewers.
“Obviously, he’s got a lot of experience,” Pirates general manager Ben Cherington said. “He’s a very good defensive first baseman. He’s always hit really well at the Triple-A level. Has had some major league experience. For the most part, I would anticipate between Alfonso and Connor Joe they would get the majority of the innings at first. We’ll see. That’s up to (manager Derek Shelton) ultimately. We have some other guys who can play over there also. We’ll see.”
Rivas is a 26-year-old left-handed hitter who broke into the major leagues with the Chicago Cubs in 2021 and also played for them in 2022. This season, he appeared in eight games for the Padres, San Diegan signing with his hometown team in January after being released by the Cubs.
In 127 big-league games, Rivas has hit just .245/.330/.323 with four home runs. He also has six defensive runs saved.
Rivas, though, has hit well at the Triple-A level, albeit without much power. He compiled a .313/.424/.492 slash line with 15 homers in 150 games.
The lack of longballs hurt Rivas’ profile as a potential everyday first baseman in the major leagues. However, Cherington is intrigued by Rivas’ skills.
“He’s always hit in the minor leagues,” Cherington said. “He’s an on-base guy. He’s a good at-bat. We’ve seen him with the Cubs hurt the Pirates in the past. He’s an excellent defensive player. He’s young. We look forward to getting to know him here in the next couple months.”
One factor working in Rivas’ favor is the Pirates have no clear-cut first baseman of the future.
Triple-A Indianapolis’ Malcom Nunez is the only first baseman ranked among Pirates’ top 30 prospects by Baseball America and he is 23rd. The 22-year-old right-handed hitter has been limited to 38 games at Indy this season because of an impingement in his right shoulder and is hitting .255/.338/.369 with four home runs.
The Pirates also do not have a true first baseman on the major-league roster. Joe is better suited to play the outfield and be a platoon player starting primarily against left-handed pitching.
The Pirates will almost certainly have to use free agency or make a trade again next winter to find a first baseman if Rivas fails to impress over the final third of the season.
Rivas will get his shot. It will be interesting to see what he does with it.