External Designated Hitter Candidates for the Pirates
Though it is increasingly likely it will be delayed, there will be baseball at some point in 2022 — at least hopefully. While there hasn’t been much traction in CBA negotiations, one thing that has been agreed to is that there will be a universal designated hitter moving forward.
The Pirates could very well fill this position internally, with Yoshi Tsutsugo a candidate at both first base and designated hitter, and options such as Michael Chavis, Ben Gamel and others in the mix. If they go with an outside addition, there are still a number of free agent and trade candidates that could be more traditional. While it is safe to say Bob Nutting won’t open up the checkbook for a guy like Freddie Freeman, the Pirates have an opportunity to bring in a quality addition.
The former Cub and Royal, Soler most recently wore an Atlanta Braves uniform where his postseason heroics helped lead the Braves to a 2021 World Series championship. Soler is a prototypical DH, with big-time power, but also comes with big-time swing and miss. In 2019 with Kansas City, Soler led the league in home runs (48) and strikeouts (178) while appearing in all 162 games.
Soler may prove too costly for the Pirates, but a cost the Pirates should hypothetically be okay with paying as the team will have one of the lowest payrolls again in 2022. Soler would provide an instant power boost to a lineup that finished last in home runs a season ago.
A 12-year Major League veteran, Moreland spent the 2021 season with the Oakland A’s where he battled injuries that limited him to just 81 games. On the year, Moreland posted a .701 OPS with 10 home runs. For his career, Moreland has slashed .251/.318/.446 with 186 home runs and 618 runs driven in. He was named an All-Star in 2018 with the Red Sox. Now 36 years old, Moreland makes sense for the Pirates financially on almost certainly a one-year deal.
Vogelbach was non-tendered by the Milwaukee Brewers earlier this offseason and is now a free agent. Like with Moreland, a hamstring injury limited Vogelbach’s season, as the 29-year-old played just 93 games a season ago. Vogelbach is a low-average hitter with the ability to hit for big power and get on base. For his career, Vogelbach has a .209 average with a .336 on-base percentage with 49 home runs. His best season came in 2018 with Seattle when he was named an All-Star, finishing the season with 30 home runs.
If the Pirates decided to sign him, he would be under Pirates control through 2024.
Looking at the trade market, a team to keep an eye on could be the New York Mets, who have more than a few guys on their roster who are candidates to spend time as a DH. If the Mets do look to make a move, both Davis and Smith could draw the eye of Ben Cherington. Davis, 28, and Smith, 26, both are under contract for three more seasons and could be part of the Pirates next window of competition.
The question is would the Pirates consider moving young assets in a trade at their current stage of a rebuild? If the asking price is reasonable, Cherington could pull the trigger on a deal since both could be considered, at least somewhat, long-term additions. Davis in his career has posted a 118 wRC+ and Smith has posted a mark of 105. Both would give the Pirates a potential middle-of-the-order bat moving forward.
With a pretty deep New York lineup and defensive question marks, Andujar could be available to other teams in a trade once the transaction freeze is over. Andujar could be a buy-low candidate for the Pirates in hopes he can regain his 2018 form offensively. That year, Andujar hit .297 with 27 home runs and 97 RBIs, finishing second behind Shohei Ohtani for AL Rookie of the Year.
Since then, Andujar has appeared in just 78 games for the Yankees and the 26-year-old hasn’t been able to find his groove offensively. Andujar is under club control for three more seasons.