sBy Jason Shetler
After dealing with throwing problems at third base, Pedro Alvarez was moved across the diamond to be the Pirates first baseman last season. That experiment failed miserably, as he committed a Major League leading 23 errors. The Pirates made the decision to non-tender Alvarez this past offseason. There were mixed opinions, as some argued that despite the bad defense, he led the club in home runs with 27, while others suggested that the defense was a real liability, and that offensively, he was very streaky.
Michael Morse was under contract heading into 2016, so he appeared to be an internal option to play regularly at first base. During the Winter Meetings, the Pirates turned down an deal from the Chicago White Sox for the now retired Adam LaRoche. They also had discussions involving Texas Rangers first baseman Mitch Moreland, but the Rangers wanted catching prospect Elias Diaz, and the offer was refused.
In late December, the Pirates signed John Jaso to a two-year deal worth $8 million. He was set to platoon at first base with Morse. Jaso had garnered the reputation as being a consistent on base guy. That on base ability was tempting enough for the Bucs to bat him leadoff against right-handed pitching. So far this season, Jaso has posted an OBP of .354 along with a 116 wRC+. He’s also been difficult to set down on strikes, as he’s put up an 11.1% strikeout rate, which is currently better than his career mark of 14.4%. The big question was how Jaso would handle playing first base. He only played two games as a first baseman prior to joining the Pirates. From complete uncertainty at the position entering 2016, Jaso has now been an above league average defensive first baseman, committing just one error and posting a 5.7 UZR/150 in 33 games to this point. If the reliable defense continues for Jaso, he could end up being used as a defensive replacement for Josh Bell in 2017. The signing of Jaso was considered a bargain just with his on base, but now that his defense has been steady, the deal is looking much better than expected.