First Pitch: Has Pedro Alvarez Played His Last Game With the Pirates?

Today it was announced that Pedro Alvarez would be out 4-6 weeks with a foot injury. That pretty much ends his season, and unless the Pirates make it deep in the post-season, it means he’s probably done for the year.

Then there’s the other situation involving Alvarez, where he is now finished with one of the worst years of his career, which featured a drop in power, and some horrible defense at third base that led to an eventual move to first. The 2014 season has been the second worst season in Alvarez’s career, falling only behind the 2011 season when he hit for a .561 OPS and was sent to the minors multiple times.

The Pirates gave Alvarez another shot in 2012 after that last poor campaign. But they also had no risk in bringing him back. He was due for a $700,000 salary in 2012, followed by $700,000 again in 2013. Now? He’s coming off a year where he made $4.25 M, and because the arbitration process factors in a full body of work, he’s likely due for a raise next year. That means he could be due for something in the $5-6 M range.

Josh Harrison has emerged this year as a strong starting option. In a perfect world, Harrison would be a super utility player, getting regular playing time by starting at different positions each night. That perfect world would consist of a productive third baseman. Currently, the Pirates don’t have one of those, and it would be foolish to start Alvarez back at third each day, while using Harrison as a utility player.

So first base becomes the next option, as it did this year. Alvarez made the move to first base, but he’s not exactly the best option for the Pirates. Ike Davis has posted better numbers than Alvarez in their careers, and they’re on the same pace this year. Davis is also due for a raise over his $3.5 M salary, and will likely be making less than Alvarez, despite the historically better production.

I can’t see the Pirates keeping both players for their first base platoon next year. I’m not even sure if they would have a first base platoon, since Gaby Sanchez and Ike Davis combined will probably be making around $8 M combined. That price kind of reduces the value of a platoon.

Will the Pirates non-tender or cut Alvarez? I don’t see that happening. But I also can’t see both Alvarez and Davis on this team next year, which means the Pirates might be on the opposite side of the situation they were in last off-season. They were searching for a first base option, and the trade market had nothing to offer except reclamation projects. None of those projects really worked out that well, but a few generated decent returns. For example, Mark Trumbo helped the Angels get Tyler Skaggs and Hector Santiago, despite Trumbo coming off a season with a .747 OPS. At the same time, Logan Morrison landed relief pitcher Carter Capps, after Morrison posted a .709 OPS.

There’s a pretty big gap in those deals, and if the Pirates trade someone this off-season, you’d hope the return is closer to the Trumbo deal. The free agent market at first base looks weak, and doesn’t look like it will have a Jose Abreu or a James Loney. The third base market would be a little more active, with Pablo Sandoval, Hanley Ramirez, plus Chase Headley if a team wants a reclamation project.

Right now it’s hard to predict what will happen over the off-season in regards to Alvarez. I don’t see the Pirates keeping both first basemen, but that doesn’t mean it will be Alvarez going and Davis staying. That said, it’s not out of the question to think that Alvarez has played his last game in a Pirates’ uniform.

Links and Notes

**Pedro Alvarez Out 4-6 Weeks With Foot Injury

**Cody Dickson’s Turnaround in 2014 Due to a Common Pirates’ Minor League Focus

**Morning Report: Revisiting a Busy Day of Off-Season Signings

  • But, what about Gabby Sanchez? I heard he was in the best shape of his life last spring…

  • Bucs should give Pedro 1 year to prove he can play 1B. If he settles down in the field maybe he can relax a bit at the plate and hit like he did in, or even better than, 2013. His throwing issues clearly indicate his “wiring” is a bit off. He’s a pro athlete, reportedly a hard worker, and, until this season, has successfully made the throw from 3B to 1B since high school thousands of times. So, his woes in the field and at the plate are not physical. If he doesn’t hit, the team can try to move him at the trade deadline. But, to trade him now would ignore the fact that he led the NL in HRs just one year ago and be a classic case of “selling low.” It’s inconceivable to me, but then again this FO has hardly maximized value and return when it comes to its recent trades (e.g., Morris, Grilli), so anything (crazy) is possible.

  • Two things that make you lose your job at the major league level, (1) lack of production. (2) money. Pedro qualifies at both, he will be gone. Why? Because he has no consistency and he will cost too much money.

    • You’ve been a Pirate fan for too long.

      On teams that plan to contend, the reason Major Leaguers lose their position is if there is a better option behind them.

  • Neal Huntington’s entire outside player acquisition strategy could be caricatured as collecting former first round picks/top prospects. I cannot see this organization giving up on one of their own and moving Alvarez at the nadir of his value. Of note, the GM who oversaw the Mark Trumbo for Tyler Skaggs trade, while it is impact may have been minor, no longer holds that position.

    While Davis is marginally the better career hitter overall and versus RHP, on base skill without speed isn’t the ideal lower in an NL lineup, in the 6 or 7 seven spot it is better to have hitter that can create runs via speed or power. If Alvarez is relegated to platoon 1B I think it is a safe assumption that he would be the the better fielder. The worst thing a front office can do is incorrectly evaluate their own assets. Hopefully the Pirates don’t and that includes whether not to start Harrison full time at 3rd. (who now has a higher or equal career WAR with Alvarez, depending on whose number you use.)

    • Well said.

      Another bit of gamesmanship added to the situation is that just plain designating Davis for assignment likely hands a division rival, the Milwaukee Brewers, their starting first baseman for 2015.

      The Pirates may be wise to take a page out of the Mets play book from this year if they hope to get something of value for his services.

  • Trades are a real possibility over the winter and those trades depending on who they get could have a huge effect on what this lineup and pitching staff look like next year. The Pirates have not pulled off a blockbuster, but they have the talent to do it.

  • The other thought is by keeping Alvarez as opposed to Ike, you have a backup plan (albeit a horrifically frustrating one) should JHay turn into a pumpkin. You also have a backup plan should someone else go down and JHay have to spell that person. It’s not like we have a lot of 3b options in the system at this point (other than a Walker move).

  • I’d listen on Davis and Alvarez and then take the best offer, but one should be moved.

    Related to this, and an idea for a future First Pitch, are we better off defensively with Harrison at 3rd and Walker at 2nd or with Walker at 3rd and Harrison at 2nd?

    • “Hey, we are moving Pedro, what can i get?” “Well, our 5th SP could be moved, you want that?” Seriously, the value from another teams perspective on Pedro while in trade negotiations wont be higher than a lower tier SP. Why would anyone buy high on Pedro right now?

  • Jay Hay’s versatility is just soooo valuable with the team’s little platoon splits throughout the field. He’s a nice compliment for Walker, Polanco, and the GOOD alvarez. I hate to just pencil him into 3b.

    This offseason will be fascinating.

    • It seems a lot of fans still see it as a slight to Harrison to suggest he should be anything but penciled in as the everyday starter at 3B.

      That couldn’t be any further from the truth.

      • Look at it another way – Harrison went to RF because the production was bad from Tabata/Snider. He went to LF because Marte had a concussion. He went to 2nd base because Walker was hurt. He went to 3b because Pedro couldn’t throw.

        If Marte and Walker stay healthy and Polanco comes around in 2015, there’s no place for Harrison to play. You don’t sub him regularly for players who are already being very productive. He won’t see many ABs that way.

        The one current position where Harrison is the most significant plus is at 3b.

  • We have no real infield depth if Harrison is the starter. Pedro will play 3B again.. possibly not for us. He should be retained just for depth even if expensive. Once the crew in AA this year is ready for the show (Allie, Hanson, Gift as backup SS) then we can jettison our current bench options (Gaby, Pedro, etc) but until then we need them.

    • “alvarez will play 1b again…”. Not in Pgh. Alvarez will be the starting 1b in Pgh to start the’15 season. JHay is your 3b, and the team is MUCH stronger w/ JH getting max. ABs.

      Infield depth? what a joke. Sacrifice the strongest possible line-up for a stronger/more flexible bench? I think not!!!

      Pgh will sign Martin & move Pedro to 1b. They may even take a shot at Liriano or Volquez for one or twoyears. This coming off-season is critical… w/o Martin + some SP help, this team will regress, which is the one thing this team cannot afford… lost time/wasted season. The window of opportunity is too narrow & too precious to choke like the Pgh FO did last winter. JHay saved GMNH’s ass, IMO. If JHay doesn’t break-out as he has, the Pirates would be sub-.500 and Pgh’s lousy off-season/regression would be the topic of conversation.

  • I think the Pirates will move Davis and G.Sanchez in favor of Pedro and T. Sanchez at 1B for 2015. This frees up salary for an attempt to sign Martin and/or a #1 Pitcher. Trading Pedro now would be trading low compared to what he would bring a year from now if he has an offensive turnaround. Moving Harrison back to super utility depends on when Hanson is ready. Here’s what I would do:

    2015: RF-Polanco, LF-Marte, CF-Cutch, 2B-Walker , 3B-Harrison, C- Martin/T.Sanchez,1B-Alvarez/T.Sanchez, SS-Mercer trading Alvarez in the winter of 2015.

    2016: RF-Polanco, 2B Hanson, CF-Cutch, 3B-Walker, LF-Marte, C-Martin/T.Sanchez,

    1B-Bell, SS-Mercer moving Harrison to super Utility with every day at bats. I’d trade Martin in the winter of 2016 to make room for Diaz.

  • I have no idea what the Pirates will do, but if it were me, I’d keep Alvarez but make it clear to him that he’s a first baseman now. That move has always been inevitable, and he has little or no leverage now to resist it.

    Then I’d move Walker to third. He played there in the minors and was reportedly very good defensively. His power would play perfectly well there, too.

    I’d start the season with Harrison at second with the understanding the position is his as long as he can hold it. That said, my ideal scenario would be Hanson taking over there by midseason and giving the Pirates the first natural leadoff hitter they’ve had in a generation. Harrison would move back to his super-utility role.

    In my perfect world, Ike would’ve been gone yesterday. I can’t believe we’re even considering a guy who complements a .230 average with 10 home runs and average-at-best defense. Pedro at least offers the promise of more power, and if he drops the ball again, you always have Lambo — who’s a better hitter than Ike for a lost less money.

    I’d bring Sanchez back as a pinch hitter and occasional starter against lefties, who he generally mashes.

    Yeah, that’s a lot of moving parts, but there’s nothing in that plan that doesn’t make sense or can’t be done.

    • I’ve seen Walker play 3rd base and he looked very good, but they had him there when they were trying to make him a utility player, so he never got a real shot there. At this stage of Walker’s career the money card trumps any move, if he can make more money buy being a top 2nd basemen versus an average 3rd basemen, they would have trouble getting him to move.

      • Ordinarily I’d agree with that argument. But as the poster below notes, Walker’s history of back problems probably make a move to third a good career move anyway. More importantly, Walker isn’t your average MLB mercenary who’s only in it for himself. He was brought up a Pirate fan and has more than a passing interest in the welfare of the team. If asked, I’m sure he’d be open to making a position change — just as lots of other players do every year.

    • I lke the idea of Walker at third; middle infielders and bad backs are not two great tastes that go together, and there’s less chance for injuries to crop up for Walker at third.

  • The way I see it is that the Pirates have (4) 1st basemen, Alvarez, Davis, Sanchez and Lambo. Alvarez has the most upside, Sanchez is right handed, Lambo can play outfield and 1st base and is cheap, that leaves Davis as odd man out.
    If it were me I would clean up 1st base and get one real 1st baseman, but the Pirates are not going to give up on Alvarez, they have too much invested in him and if he should have any kind of bounce back he will up his value. Davis has never seen an outside corner pitch that he will swing at. Lambo is cheap and has shown signs that he might be getting it. Sanchez is a valuable bench option for Hurdle.
    I see Davis, Barmes and Martin as sure bets to not be on this team next year. As far as the pitchers there is no way to tell what the Pirates will do, they don’t know themselves, depends on whether they can come to any agreements with Volquez and Liriano.

    • he will cost a LOT next year, and will be gone at some point the year after.

      No reason to plan your future around a guy who has at most 1.5 seasons left here

      • In what year are we living where $5-6m is a “LOT” in Major League Baseball?

        • Exactly. Pedro for $6-7mil. at 1b is a bargain. But Pedro for $6-7mil. at 3b + 30 errors is NOT a bargain.

          Pirates will convince Alvarez to try 1b… otherwise his market value will evaporate, which is the last thing El Toro wants as he heads into his precious FA season…

    • I actually think Lambo could have the most upside. He has better BA potential than any of them, better power potential than Davis & Sanchez, and better OBP potential than Alvarez & Sanchez. And, his L-R splits aren’t bad over is minor league career. Get Lambo more work on 1B defense and Pedro fixing his throws to 1st over the winter Pedro is most valuable at 3B.

  • I get the feeling Pedro is a head case. Ever notice how he’s never really taken up his place in the clean-up spot in the batting order, but if you move him down to, say, the seven hole, he seems to do better.

    I think he feels the pressure of high expectation and cannot handle it. At this level, it is a head game and Pedro is losing.

    -Wabbit

  • Like everything there are different roads for the Alvarez situation:
    1- The Pirates offense demonstrated this year that it can be good without the power threat of Alvarez, so a trade would be possible, but this season ending injury only lowers his value.
    2- It is a gamble to go into 2015 with Harrison as your only 3b option. What happens if his 2014 numbers are not sustainable?

    My guess is that the Pirates would keep both Alvarez and Davis, and the one going is Gaby Sanchez.
    They are going to give Alvarez another shot at 3B and move Harrison to RF. I think Polanco starts the year in AAA. The reevaluate during the season to see who has more value for a trade.

    I agree that the Pirates would be foolish to sell Alvarez at this low point and even Davis. But I can think of several teams desperate for a 1B/3B that maybe will pay higher for any of them.
    I think Alvarez is a fit for the Padres at 3B.
    The WhiteSox can use some kind of DH/1B to spare Abreu
    Baltimore, Cleveland, Oakland (they love platoon players), Rangers, they all can use a DH/1B/3B to move around.

    • Unless Polanco has a Lambo-like ST next year, no way he starts the year in AAA.

    • “My guess is that the Pirates would keep both Alvarez and Davis, and the one going is Gaby Sanchez.”

      Yikes! Really?! Both Davis and Alvarez are career sub-.200 hitters against LHP. Sadly, neither is particularly sparkling against RHP.

      • Yes, I think Gaby Sanchez is leaving as the RH from the platoon. They can get someone cheaper for that or at least someone who can play other positions. Maybe a Scott Van Slyke, Tommy Medica, etc

        • I very much like the idea of a guy with positional flexibility, but as far as cost, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if they don’t non-tender/DFA Gaby only to work out a lesser deal with him later, a la Jeff Karstens.

          Otherwise, you’re not going to find a better platoon 1B on the market.

  • The upside of Pedro is what is so appealing. Not past production. That being said if there was EVER a time to extend him it may be now. He wont come any cheaper than right now. Trading is bad right now because he is at his lowest value. Unless another GM is enamored with the power then finding an equitable deal will be tough. Why not try to extend him by a few seasons and avoid arbitration? If/when he does come around you could have a dominant left handed hitter in the middle of your lineup for a fraction of the cost had he had a good season this year.

    • It’s an interesting idea, but Alvarez is still a Scott Boras client, and say what you will about Boras, but the man isn’t a fool. The Pirates don’t want to sell low on Pedro in a trade, and Boras certainly isn’t going to sell low on Pedro on an extension.

  • Pedro was never perfect. He strikes out too much, doesn’t get on base, and was never a good fielder. The guys career OPS vs RHP is under .800. However, he can go through streaks where he hits everything he sees hard and can carry the team for a couple weeks. I think if he can get back to playing 3rd, he has value. Otherwise, 5+ mil is too much to pay for a platoon 1st baseman.

  • I agree with you, Tim. No way Neal Huntington is giving up on Alvarez. If we know one thing about our GM, it’s that he likes to protect his assets. Since Pedro was such an “expensive” acquisition (1st round, second pick), he won’t let him go via DFA or low return trade. I actually think he’ll keep Ike and Pedro, hope that Pedro can throw again, and use Harrison as that utility player. Despite the terrible production this year, even with a raise Alvarez is still relatively cheap.

  • Personally, I would rather see Pedro at 1b over Ike. Ike has the higher OPS, but most of that is tied up in walks.

    Pedro is also the better baserunner. If he has a monster year, THEN you deal him. Don’t deal him at his lowest point.

  • A very tough decision to make, even though Pedro is having an off year, and nearing FA in 2 years. He has that 30 HR/season power, but has never adjusted to MLB pitching, and his HR or no count approach is getting old. So, 3B is out – no way the Pirates think of him again over there, and 1B is probably the next best option, but the production from our combo first base has been excellent this year. Gabby and Ike have combined to place 1st on the team with Walks (75), 2nd in RBI (69),3rd for doubles (31), and 4th in HR (15), Can we overlook that type of production? I think the Pirates are almost hoping somebody calls with an offer. And for Pedro, sometimes the pain of being excess baggage works to convince a player that they need to make some changes in their game. Maybe a new start with an AL team that could use him as a DH/1B/3B lefty hitter who can hit it out of any field.

    • Under what scenario is the Bucs 1b platoon production even “satisfactory” let alone “excellent”?

      Ike/Gaby w/o Ishikawa or others at 1b (Pedro, Barmes, et.al.), but including all Gaby/Ike PAs as PH or other:

      BA: .232 (12th in NL)
      OBP: .329 (10th in NL)
      SLG: .378 (14th in NL)
      OPS: .709 (12th in NL)
      HR: 15 (13th in NL)
      RBI: 69 (11th in NL)
      BB: 75 (4th in NL)
      K: 115 (T10th in NL, or T6th best)
      RS: 59 (14th in NL)

      Adding Ike’s numbers from Mets add a HR and a couple of RBIs, but the BA/OBP/SLG/OPS figures actually get worse. And that’s not including 5 caught stealings in 8 attempts. Or that they have the 3rd most errors.

      Face it, with or without Pedro at 1b, it’s a black hole.

      • The notion that Pedro would be a “black hole” at 1B is just plain silly.

        Do we already forget the clamoring for James Loney?

        • Maybe y’all have lower standards. I never wanted to pay for Loney. Personally, I’d want my 1b to consistently post an OPS >.800. Pedro certainly could do that. But he hasn’t.

          • Neither did I.

            But fact is the market rewarded Loney with three guaranteed years and over $20m. “Black hole” is simply hyperbole.

  • Call me an eternal optimist, but I think Pedro will be a productive player for Pirates again. Maybe as early as the NLCS, maybe next season. However, I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if he’s dealt this winter. Lots of water under the bridge in this relationship.

    • If we are able to make the playoffs and get into the NLCS, I can’t see the Pirates adding Pedro to the 25 man roster. I agree with the question posted above, El Toro has played his last game in the black and gold.

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