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.
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.
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.
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.