Who will start at first base for the Milwaukee Brewers in 2024: Free Agents
Given the backup level production from the first basemen on the current roster and the fact that Tyler Black is green behind the ears as a first baseman and Wes Clarke will likely be in AAA for most if not all of 2024, it seems pretty likely that the Milwaukee Brewers starting first baseman isn't on the roster yet.
The first and probably most likely option, is a reunion with Carlos Santana (who will be 38 in April). Santana is great for the clubhouse and after coming over to the Brewers in a trade last summer slashed .249/.314/.459 and hit 11 home runs in just 52 games. Santana played some solid defense and provides even more value given the fact that he is a switch hitter. Carlos Santana may be the smartest move to buy time for the two previously mentioned Brewers prospects to be ready for the full MLB workload in 2025.
A Washington DC baseball reporter said that the Brewers and Nationals are in on Santana with the Brewers being the more likely destination.
Another highly requested option by Milwaukee Brewers fans is Rhys Hoskins who is almost guaranteed to head elsewhere after the Philadelphia Phillies stated their intentions to have Bryce Harper be their full time first baseman.
Hoskins didn't play in 2023 due to a knee injury and is a considerably younger than Carlos Santana as he will turn 31 in March. Hoskins is a career .242/.353/.492 slasher, totaling an .846 OPS and 125 OPS+. Hoskins hit 30 home runs in 2022 and 27 in 2021. Fangraphs projects him for .242/.332/.490 in 2024, a .793 OPS. The cost for Hoskins would likely be around his 2022 season value of $18.3 million, likely out of the Milwaukee Brewers price range unless they do a one year deal like they did with Yasmani Grandal back in 2019.
A cheaper outside free agent option could be Brandon Belt. The Toronto Blue Jays General Manager said in October he will "miss Brandon Belt, Matt Chapman and Kevin Kiermaier", suggesting Belt will be seeking a new home for 2024.
Brandon Belt is older, not quite as old as Carlos Santana, Belt will be 36 in April and is in the same camp as Santana as a stop gap before turning the position over to one of the young gun prospects. Last season Brandon Belt slashed .254/.369/.490 for an .858 OPS and 136 OPS+. His .369 on base percentage was the fourth highest mark of his 13 year career and his 19 home runs mark the second most in his career.
Belt does have a .994 fielding percentage as a first baseman but last year had a defensive WAR of -0.9. However, as good as the Milwaukee Brewers project to be all over the rest of the field they may be able to get away with one slightly below average defender in exchange for a reliable batter. Belt batted .284 in August and .273 in September, worth noting for the Brewers who over the last 5 years always seem to be at their best towards the end of the season.
The Brewers have been linked to Brandon Belt by at least one outlet, MLB Trade Rumors.
Who will start at first base for the Milwaukee Brewers in 2024: Likely Verdict
The Milwaukee Brewers, based on reports, will likely end up bringing back Carlos Santana and back him up with Jake Bauers and Owen Miller until Tyler Black, Wes Clarke or maybe Brock Wilken (if the Brewers convert him to first base) are ready for their big league call up.
Should the Brewers opt to not bring back Santana and go the youth route, I would love to see Tyler Black get the starting first base job and see what kind of damage he could do by getting on base and running all over opposing teams.