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.
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