Steve Pearce grabbed national attention in 2014 when he seemingly came out of nowhere to pick up the slack left by Chris Davis. He was instrumental in helping the Orioles get to the postseason. But he'd never really shown that kind of talent before in his career and people wondered if it was a fluke. This season seemed to provide an answer that was not kind. But now he's a free agent and he plays a position where the Brewers have a need, so let's take a look at his case.
Since the majority of baseball fans first heard Steve Pearce's name last year, one might believe he's a younger player. But in fact he's one of the older first base free agents on the market. He'll turn 33 in early April. Only Justin Morneau is older.
For most of his career Pearce was a utility player. He can play first base, both corner outfield spots, and this season he even spent some time at second base. So he does provide the most utility out of all the first base options. But that utility doesn't necessarily boost his stock for Milwaukee. They don't really need coverage at those other positions. It might make it easier to trade him mid-season though, and that's something to consider.
Since Pearce has spent the majority of his career in a back-up role he hasn't really seen that much playing time despite being an 8 year "veteran." The most playing time came in 2014. He accumulated 383 PA in 102 games. It was the only season he appeared in over 100 games. This year he played in 92. His highest mark before that was 61 games.
As far as fielding metrics go he's rated as around average at each of those positions. So he's a better defender than the like of Chris Carter and Pedro Alvarez. That's not a high bar though. While I prefer defense over offense for the sake of the pitchers, if you're looking for an asset to flip you're going to want an offensive force. Pearce probably is not going to provide that.
In his nine seasons at the major league level Pearce has accumulated 1555 plate appearances with a 247/325/431 slash line. That's not entirely awful as it's just above league average with a 106 wRC+. But it's not what you'd hope for at first base and the majority of it comes from the most recent three seasons. That's not exactly a bad thing though. You should give more weight to recent seasons because players can change as they get more playing time.
However his recent three seasons are rather uneven. In 2013 he had a 115 wRC+. Last year a 161 wRC+. And this year a 91 wRC+. That 2014 season sticks out as unusual. In his career he's had a 123 wRC+ vs LHP and a 96 vs RHP. In that 2014 season he had a 208 wRC+ vs LHP and a 142 wRC+ vs RHP. It was a nice season for him, but clearly not one he could reproduce.
As a right-handed hitter I could make an argument that Pearce is a worth candidate for a platoon role with a LHH. He offers a unique positional flexibility you don't normally see with first basemen. However the Brewers don't need that flexibility. And they already have a RHH first baseman. So unless they think he's secretly ready for a break-out or they really don't believe Jason Rogers can handle MLB playing time, I just don't think Steve Pearce is a logical fit for Milwaukee.
Statistics courtesy of FanGraphs