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Finding A Home For Pedro Alvarez

All signs point to Pedro's career taking a turn elsewhere in 2016. Photo by Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

All signs point to Pedro’s career taking a turn elsewhere in 2016.
Photo by Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Prior to the start of the season, I wrote an article about how the 2015 season was most likely Pedro Alvarez’s last with the Pirates. The primary reason in the article was that his agent is Scott Boras, who takes the vast majority of his clients to free agency instead of signing team-friendly pre-free agency deals. Within that article, I laid out three potential scenarios for Pedro’s 2015 season.

  1. Alvarez hits 30+ HR and plays a competent 1B. This means the Pirates were probably in wild-card contention and his value has been restored somewhat. They will then look to trade him on the market after the season to get some return on his final year of control.

  2. Alvarez hits less than 20 HR, is a disaster at 1B, spends time on DL. At that point, I think the Pirates still feverishly try to trade him, even for pennies on the dollar, but the more realistic endgame is to non-tender him.

  3. Alvarez has a meandering season with 25 HR, some uninspiring defense at 1B. As with most things, the answer probably lies in the murky middle. This is the scenario I see happening the most, which will cause quite a decision on Federal Street. It’s possible that to move him, Alvarez may need to be packaged with a semi-decent prospect.

Well, here we are with the regular season winding down and it seems as if scenario #3 is the closest match (although I wouldn’t complain if you went with scenario #2’s disaster defense designation). When the offseason gets here, TPOP will have you covered on the ‘business of baseball’ type of articles relating to projected arbitration salaries and the like, but for now let’s all just accept that the Pirates are going to have some hard salary choices to make this offseason with some players due for large arbitration raises.

Although Steve and I disagree on Pedro, I truly believe that he will be traded this offseason. As is obvious to just about everybody who watches him on a consistent basis, his best defensive position appears to be designated hitter, so a trade to an American League club is his most likely destination. The problem is that most AL teams use the DH position as a way to rest their players and very few allocate the main portion of playing time to one guy. What AL teams may be in the market for a DH that can moonlight a little at 1B, with a projected salary of around $7.5M?

  • Baltimore — The O’s are most likely going to lose 1B Chris Davis to free agency this offseason. Their DH position has been a large pile of dreck all season. I could see them interested in trying to replace some of Davis’s production at a fraction of the cost, whether they put him at 1B or DH.
  • Boston — Mike Napoli has been traded and won’t be back to play 1B. Big Papi Ortiz has DH on lockdown. The Red Sox drafted a young Pedro Alvarez out of high school in 2005. All the pieces seem to be lining up…until you read that the Red Sox may try Hanley Ramirez at 1B after his comically bad year in LF, in an effort to get something out of his misguided contract (still with 3 yr/$68M left). New President Dave Dombrowski and his yet-to-be-named GM may try and offload Ramirez, but for now this doesn’t look like a possibility.
  • Chicago White Sox — Jose Abreu and Adam Laroche are both under contract for 2016. Laroche wasn’t very good this year, but this doesn’t seem like a fit.
  • Cleveland — Carlos Santana is the nominal 1B and their DH position was used to rotate a bunch of slow-footed corner players through the lineup to give them rest. Cleveland has some payroll capacity and seem to be a team looking to make a push for a playoff spot next year, so this may be a potential match.
  • Detroit — The Tigers have Victor Martinez and Miguel Cabrera under control for multiple future seasons, so this is a ‘no’.
  • Houston — The Astros were surprise playoff contenders this year and may start to ramp up spending this upcoming offseason. Chris Carter was a poor man’s version of Pedro Alvarez at 1B this year, so contemplate that for a few seconds. There are rumblings that the Astros could be interested in trading for Joey Votto and may be in the mix for Chris Davis, so Pedro would probably be their Plan C. But it is a possibility.
  • Kansas City — With Eric Hosmer at 1B and Kendry Morales at DH, the Royals have other places to spend their dollars this offseason.
  • LA Angels — Albert Pujols isn’t going anywhere at 1B, but perhaps the Angels would upgrade over C.J. Cron at DH. I have to imagine that the Angels are looking at pitching over hitting, though, and may view Alvarez as an ancillary upgrade.
  • Minnesota — With Joe Mauer at 1B and Miguel Sano potentially seeing most of his time at DH or 1B, it’s hard to see a match here.
  • New York Yankees — The Yanks have Mark Texeira at 1B and Alex Rodriguez as the primary DH, in addition to shuffling all their other greybeards through the DH spot. No match here, even if he is a product of New York City.
  • Oakland — You just never know with Billy Beane (and his potential-to-be-appointed in-house replacement, David Forst). Right now Billy Butler is the DH and Mark Canha is the 1B, but Oakland has been unpredictable in recent years.
  • Seattle — Nelson Cruz has the DH spot on lock down, but Logan Morrison at 1B could be upgraded. The Mariners are looking for a new GM, so it’s tough to gauge their thought process at this point, but there’s a potential for a match here.
  • Tampa Bay — Could the Rays use Alvarez? Definitely. James Loney supplies little power and their DH spot was nothing special this year. But with the Rays, it’s always about money. Owner Stuart Sternberg has already said the 2016 payroll will be right around the $72M mark of 2015’s payroll. With a large arbitration class that could get expensive, the Rays may have to shed a contract (whether in a potential deal with the Pirates or in a separate trade) to fit $7.5M in to the payroll.
  • Texas — Prince Fielder and Mitch Moreland both had very good seasons this year and I don’t see why the Rangers would look to make a move here.
  • Toronto — Edwin Encarnacion is not strong with the glove, either, so the Jays hide him at DH most of the time. Alvarez could fit at 1B over fellow 2008 disappointment, Justin Smoak, and do a job-share with Encarnacion. There’s a possible fit here.

So out of the 15 AL teams, there are three strong possibilities (BAL, SEA, TOR) and four weaker ones (CLE, HOU, LAA, TB). As I mentioned above, the Pirates’ payroll space does not look very plentiful with all the arbitration-eligible players and existing salary commitments. The Pirates don’t have a ton of needs going into the offseason, but they will be looking for a starting pitcher or two. Whether they move Alvarez for prospects and then re-invest the money into an arm or get an arm back directly in a deal remains to be seen at this point.

Tampa Bay, although I have them cited as a weaker possibility, would be an interesting partner. The Rays have a young pitcher named Blake Snell that is on the precipice of doing great things in the majors. The Rays also are in the enviable position of having plentiful of young, productive, cost-controlled pitchers already. If dollars are tight, would the Rays part with Drew Smyly (age-27 in 2016, going into 2nd year of arbitration after $2.65M in 2015)? Would the Pirates be willing to roll the dice on Alex Cobb (age-28, going into 2nd year of arbitration after $4M in 2015) who may return from Tommy John surgery in June 2016? Or more interestingly, would the Rays move reliever Jake McGee (age-29, going into 3rd of 4 arbitration years as a Super 2 after making $3.55M in 2015)? McGee would be an excellent setup or closer candidate, if the Pirates move Melancon this offseason. The Pirates would probably have to sweeten the deal with a prospect paired up with Alvarez for some of these scenarios to the Rays.

The offseason isn’t even here, but it’s still fun to speculate on all the machinations that will go into the construction of the 2016 Pirate roster.

Nerd engineer by day, nerd writer at night. Kevin is the co-founder of The Point of Pittsburgh. He is the author of Creating Christ, a sci-fi novel available on Amazon.

10 Comments on Finding A Home For Pedro Alvarez

  1. I would be pretty shocked if Pedro Alvarez returns anything close to Blake Snell or Drew Smyly in a trade. We’re talking about a ~1 WAR DH candidate in Alvarez. He’s not without value as a guy who can hit MLB pitching, he just doesn’t have that much value as a guy who can’t field, is only a bit above average offensively, and only has one cost-controlled year of control remaining.

    Smyly is a solid LHSP with three years of control and Snell is a close to MLB-ready top 50-caliber prospect. Even McGee has two years of control left, though you could maybe argue for that trade.

    • Kevin Creagh // September 27, 2015 at 4:48 PM //

      Whether it wasn’t written well or whatever, but the premise was that Snell was the reason TB would make room in the rotation by trading someone else.

      TB is budget conscious next year so they will be trading a starter somewhere. As I said, Alvarez plus a prospect can make it happen here

  2. Gary Mugford // September 27, 2015 at 11:37 AM //

    Toronto viewpoint here: Smoak’s had about a half-seasonn of at-bats and has equalled Alvarez’s home rate closely enough that Alvarez wouldn’t be considered an upgrade power-wise. Plus Smoak’s been an outstanding defender. As has been Chris Colabello (when at 1st), who’s also come close to the power rate we are talking about AND has provided .325 on the average line. Together, the two have platooned at 1st in a very effective unit, earning about a third of what Alvarez will make next year. And the stats would have been even better had ex-Pirate Bautista not had to spend six weeks at DH, instead of out in the field. Frankly, Toronto should have been as big a no as say the Yankees, who ALSO have stud Greg Bird playing like Texeira USED to in his healthier days. Neither one rates to acquire Alvarez without massive (and unlikely) changes in their current three-headed DH-1B units.

    • Kevin Creagh // September 27, 2015 at 4:45 PM //

      To me, smoak looked like a non-tender candidate, even w his power spike, but I’ll defer here

  3. No way does Alvarez come to Toronto. He’s a) a Boras client and the Blue Jays avoid Boras like they would a syphilitic dockside whore and b) 1B is Bautista’s eventual destination.

    • Kevin Creagh // September 27, 2015 at 4:43 PM //

      A) that’s quite an image
      B) I know his 2016 option is a no brainer, but will Bautista re-sign after that and shift to 1b? It doesn’t affect this article discussion, but I’m curious.

  4. Unless the Pirates are sending a ton of money the other way, there is little chance they can get any MLB-ready talent. Additionally, each of the stronger options that you present is not that strong at all. If Baltimore loses Chris Davis, they have Steve Pearce to slot in at first, and the DH will be split among Wieters, Joseph, Clevenger, and Reimold each of which are nearly as adequate as Alvarez with the bat, and much more worthy in the field. Seattle will let Morrison go, but 1B/DH at-bats are going to Trumbo/Cruz/Montero. Considering they have almost $24 mil invested in Trumbo and Cruz, I don’t think they’re biting. And Toronto…they literally have 10 or 11 bats that are as good, or better than Alvarez. Their 1B/DH platoon is in the top tier of AL teams, so they are not doing anything. I am not familiar with the author, but it sounds like a piece written by a fan of a team that incredibly over-values “his team’s” own talent as evidenced by the idea that Smyly or Cobb could be brought back.

    • Kevin Creagh // September 27, 2015 at 4:51 PM //

      See my other comment regarding TB and the need for a prospect going back, plus TB needing to reallocate payroll.
      Since you’re not familiar w me, know that I’m not an Alvarez fan at all and am not anticipating much better than a reliever back in most scenarios.

      And weiters is also a free agent, FYI

      • I re-read my initial post and determined that it sounded rather snarky. I apologize for that. You are obviously a fan of baseball, and a person that can write a piece that is very sound and engaging, and you shouldn’t be fodder for internet hacks like me to take stabs at.

        I did read that you said that the Pirates would have to include a prospect to sweeten the deal for any of the above scenarios with TB, however I think that it would have to be much more than the Pirates would want to send out. Cobb is somebody that Friedman claimed, even injured, was a future 2 or 3, and they just dealt one of the top five pitchers in the game for Smyly a year ago.

        Having now been removed from the post for a few hours, I can see a scenario in TB for him, however I still think it is a longshot. He’ll get about $6 mil, and the guy he would be replacing (Jaso) was getting a shade over $3 mil, and provided better production that was more in line with the org’s philosophy.

        Wieters is an FA, but has virtually no chance of leaving in my opinion. He’s coming off an injury, has stated that he wants to stay in the org, and the org has stated that they won’t have money to sign all of their free agents, but will make a huge effort to retain all of the pieces that won’t cost the farm (sorry Chris Davis).

        Thank you for the piece, the reply, and the opportunity to put thought into something that I wouldn’t have otherwise done so.

        • Kevin Creagh // September 27, 2015 at 8:00 PM //

          You don’t have to worry about apologizing (I have thick skin) but thank you.
          I don’t see Wieters staying — once Boras takes his “name brand” clients to free agency, he will extract $1 more dollar from a team and steer his guy there. I don’t listen to players say they want to stay, a team saying they want to keep a player — it all comes down to $ at the end.

          You are correct about TB, but Friedman is no longer there and their owner is still restricting payroll, so I’m not ruling anything out for them. Right now they have $29M in salary commitments to 4 players, about $27M in potential arb salaries to 7 players that I see them keeping, then $7M alloted to min salary guys. That’s $63M out of $72M salary threshold put down by their owner — with some serious needs to fill.

          I put TB in the not-as-likely pile because of this. To be honest, I see BAL as the most likely destination for Alvarez.

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