This is one in a series of examining potential trade targets for the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 2023-24 offseason.
Seattle Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto has developed a reputation as an active participant on the trade market.
So far this offseason, Dipoto has already swung several deals. He completed two minor trades early on in the month of November. In the last couple weeks, he acquired Luis Urías from the Boston Red Sox and sent third baseman Eugenio Suárez to the Arizona Diamondbacks for two players.
Dipoto also got together with Pittsburgh Pirates general manager Ben Cherington at the beginning of the offseason. The Pirates sent right-hander Cody Bolton to the Mariners for cash considerations.
Could the two teams link up again for a trade? Maybe. The two teams match up well in additional deals, and there’s one player who could fit the Pirates particularly well.
Ty France could solve the Pirates’ need at first base. The 29-year-old played 158 games at the position for Seattle last season.
By his standards, 2023 was a down year for France. He was essentially a league-average player with the bat. He finished the campaign with a .250/.337/.366 slash with 32 doubles, 12 home runs and 58 RBIs.
While last season was below expectations, France had an impressive stretch of success at the plate from 2020-22. In 335 games, France slashed .285/.355/.443 with 68 doubles, 42 home runs and 179 RBIs. Over 162 games played, that would be on pace for 33 doubles, 20 homers and 87 RBIs per season.
During those three years, France averaged a strong 128 wRC+. He was named an All-Star for the first time during the 2022 season.
France doesn’t strike out much. For his career, he’s gone down on strikes in 17.4% of his plate appearances. He also doesn’t walk much, as evident by his 6.4% walk rate. He does, however, get hit by pitches at a stunningly high clip. France led the major leagues in HBPs in 2021 (27) and in 2023 (34). Since the start of the 2021 season, no player in baseball has been hit by more pitches than France.
France had been a solid defender at first base for the majority of his career, but like his offense in 2023, his defense also took a step back. He posted minus-7 defensive runs saved this past season after being ‘plus’ in DRS from 2021-22. The bright side for France, though, is that he committed only one error in 158 games in the field.
The Pirates could look to more or less buy-low on France coming off of his worst full season as a big leaguer. If they believe he is capable of returning to his old form, the gamble could be worthwhile.
France is under club control through the 2025 season. MLB Trade Rumors projects him to earn $7.2 million in arbitration this winter.