First Pitch: Should the Pirates Tender Pedro Alvarez a Contract?

Today is the non-tender deadline at which point the Pirates need to make a decision to offer contracts to all unsigned players. That includes any player with 0-3 years of service time, and more notably, any arbitration eligible players. In previous years, the official roster announcements have come close to midnight, so we could be in for a long wait. Here are the players who are eligible for arbitration, along with their projected salaries.

Neil Walker – $10,700,000

Mark Melancon – $10,000,000

Pedro Alvarez – $8,100,000

Tony Watson – $4,600,000

Jeff Locke – $3,500,000

Francisco Cervelli – $2,500,000

Jared Hughes – $2,200,000

Jordy Mercer – $1,800,000

Chris Stewart – $1,600,000

Everyone on that list looks like a guarantee to get tendered a contract, with one notable exception: Pedro Alvarez. There has been no secret that the Pirates are looking to move him, and that would make sense. He was replacement level last year, and spending that much for such little production doesn’t make sense, especially when the Pirates have to shed some salary to make room for upgrades.

The Pirates have a decision to make this off-season with Alvarez, and it seems the decision is pretty much made that they will move on without him. The question is whether they will non-tender him tomorrow, or hold onto him and try to trade him. I think it’s more likely that they keep him and trade him, but I don’t see them getting much in return, so it probably won’t make a big difference in the long run.

Let’s pretend for a second that they still have a choice to make between keeping Alvarez or getting rid of Alvarez in some way. Technically they do still have that choice, but again, it seems like the choice has been made.

If they get rid of Alvarez, it might hurt the offense. He had one of his best offensive seasons last year, and no one else on the team can bring the type of power that he can bring, although that is somewhat offset by the strikeouts and lack of average. But the value he brings offensively is negated by his defensive struggles at first base.

The Pirates rely heavily on defense, specifically their infield defense. Their 50.4% groundball rate last year ranked first in all of baseball. The two pitchers they’ve been connected to this off-season are both heavy groundball pitchers. That’s not a coincidence, as that is the type of pitcher they target, leading to the overall results. Alvarez was horrible defensively last year, and that could hurt the entire pitching staff next year, along with any reclamation project they bring in.

If Alvarez goes, the Pirates probably won’t be able to replicate his offense with another addition. However, they could make up for the loss in value by upgrading the defense, which would help every single pitcher, and would especially help the groundball heavy guys.

Then there’s the scenario if Alvarez sticks around. He’s in his final year before free agency, which provides two benefits. The first benefit is that keeping him around doesn’t hurt them in the long-term. They’re going to need to clear some payroll to add upgrades, but chances are they’ll at least trade Mark Melancon, and possibly Neil Walker (although Walker is a guy I’d keep). If they did keep Alvarez, that would be less payroll space available, but also one less spot to fill.

You also have the “contract year” theory, with the hope that Alvarez would have a career year as he prepares to hit the open market. I could buy in to this theory on the offensive side of things. We saw a good year from Alvarez in 2015, and I think with the chance of a big contract looming, we could see the same or better in 2016. The problem is that his defense is so bad that I don’t think the “contract year” theory would solve it. And given that offense still gets noticed far more than defense, I think he’d get paid with good offense and poor defense, especially from an AL team looking for a designated hitter.

The one redeeming quality here is that the Pirates could try to get compensation if Alvarez has a big year on offense. They could give him a qualifying offer, and the odds of him accepting would be very low if the offense was good enough. That value would be better than anything they could get via trade this off-season, but it comes at the risk of Alvarez having a bad year, or just another replacement level year, which wouldn’t get any compensation.

There’s not really a clear-cut answer for how to handle the Alvarez situation. I think Michael Morse is an interesting replacement option, but it would still be smart to add another option, specifically someone who can handle the left-handed side of a platoon while Morse proves himself in a smaller role at first. They added Jake Goebbert last week, but he seems like depth to replace Andrew Lambo.

Alvarez could be that complement to Morse, with the Pirates banking on the contract year. But they’d also be choosing offense over defense, which might not help the team overall.

At any rate, I’d be surprised if Alvarez was non-tendered today. I don’t think tendering him an offer will get them a better trade return. I could see the argument that another team wouldn’t trade for him until after the tender deadline, but I don’t think the offer would be great either way. It wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world if they kept him around for one final year and banked on the contract year. But I think that it’s more important for the overall team success if they upgraded the defense at the position, even if it came with a downgrade on offense.

**Pirates Reportedly Interested in Justin Masterson. Another possible reclamation project who fits the Pirates’ traditional approach.

**Open Discussion Thread: On the Eve of the Non-Tender Deadline. There have been requests for an off-topic area to post comments. A message board isn’t an option here, so I tried this out today. I might post another one tomorrow, giving a place to talk about any topic while we wait for news. Feel free to give your feedback on the thread, and whether you’d like to see it as a regular thing.

Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.

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Travis P

The fact that no one is willing to bite the bullet and give Neal a trade offer for Pedro shows how replaceable and full of holes Pedro is. Any team could have him for even a trade built on “hope” on their end of some low A or AA player(s)…but instead it’s crickets.

I’ve enjoyed seeing him smash HR’s and be part of the return of our Buccos…but the fact that he isn’t a top tier hitter AND can’t field any position makes him a risk (albeit a low risk/high reward) for an AL team…minus the 8-10 million a year Boras will be asking for in the open market. For people that keep saying, “Let’s wait and see on his defense.” I think that ship has sailed. At some point a player is who he is.

The defense has been literally sub-par for multiple years now and the one thing that we haven’t talked about for quite awhile is the continuing change of his body (isn’t that a nice way we’d all like to be described…lol) which has severely limited him to a large project at 1B and a DH who has struggled throughout his professional career against LHP.


This just. isn’t. true. It’s about timing. GM’s aren’t going to trade for a player they believe will be non-tendered.

Your logic could’ve been used for Garrett Jones, and then he went and signed a two year free agent deal. Because nobody wanted him, apparently.

Travis P

Really? So the fact they’ve been trying to trade him for 2 yrs now holds no water to you? This isn’t the first time Pedro has been on the market…This. Is. True.

Thomas H

Yes, but Jones got something like half of what he would have gotten at arbitration.

Pedro has value. The question is whether his value to the Pirates is what an arb panel would award him. Rightly or wrongly, I don’t think they think it is and I don’t think they want to risk getting stuck with him.


No disagreement there, sir.

Paul Rutledge

Is there not a chance looming that the DH will become universal after the 2016 season? If so, Alvarez is worth keeping around this year because he becomes a better bet on the qualifying offer next year. His market will be bigger when the NL is in the pool as well, and his trade value at this year’s deadline would increase significantly.
Of course, if there is no chance of that, it changes the equation somewhat. At this point, if you non-tender him you get nothing, or you could tender him and trade him for a bag of wet golf balls. What is the difference? Tender him.


According to Boras, Pedro has not asked for a trade, and he (Boras) states that the Pirate’s will offer arbitration.

Boras has spoken.


Cause he knows his client is about to lose money and so will he, considering he gets a percentage.


Boras’s statements in that article are so logically inconsistent that I’m just going to ignore them.


I’m frankly surprised he’s even making direct statements about a player like Alvarez at this point.


Have you ever known Boras to say “no comment” 🙂


I assumed he was contacted and asked for comment.


True. Probably has an elevator pitch for every one of his clients, which also explains the nonsensical nature of his comments.


And so it is.

Brian Bernard

Everyone is tossing their hat in the ring on this one and so will I. Pedro needs to be signed to an extension and placed at 3b fulltime – no platoon. 3/30 would get it done.
#1 . Power hitting 3b, check.
Mercer starts the year at SS, but Kang is the future there.
#2 . Excellent hitting SS, check.
Walker starts the year platooning with Morse at 1b, he’s just like James Loney IMO and worth the money especially with his doubles power.
#3 . Better platoon at 1b, check.
Harrison signed a great contract, but it always was really a 2b or utility contract.
#4 . Harrison is the best option at 2b, with Mercer potentially competing for the 2b/utility role with Harrison – one of them will win out, the other will be a good spot guy.
#5 Sign Cole long term with the money you save on the Pedro deal. Bell will replace both Walker and Morse next year, so keep Pedro where he showed the best defense which is at 3b.


#6 Move Shazier to safety.


You left one thing off your checklist: with Alvarez at third the Bucs would again require a ten-foot tall, freakishly athletic behemoth to play defense at first to snare Pedro’s erratic throws. Get that and they’ll be aces.

Brian Bernard

Isn’t that Morse?

Bill W

Have you looked closely at Morse. He looks like a freakishly tall caveman.

joe s

I do not like Pedro but let’s be realistic here, he is the only power hitter on the team. Yeah, you have some guys that might hit 20 hrs a year but he can do that and more. The team lived with his bad defense and strikeouts last year and won 98 games. Lets keep him and try to move him once Bell is ready, if he is ever ready.


Those crazy baseball economics. Geritt Cole makes 100k a month. In a few years he’ll be making that an INNING.


Tells you how desperate advertisers are for eyeballs. Half that revenue is from national and local media deals, which are funded entirely by what advertisers are willing to pay. In the post-DVR world with cord-cutting rampant, live sports are the only segment that still guarantees a captive audience.

The money those advertisers used to spend on ads in magazines we no longer buy, newspapers we no longer read, basic cable we watch on DVR with ad-skipping, and premium cable we wait to stream on Netflix… it’s all flooding into live sports. And no sport competes with baseball for live, local eyeballs.

Those huge contracts being paid to baseball players just show you exactly how desperate advertisers are to reach you.


Only a matter of time before the uniforms look like international soccer or baseball uni/billboards

Bruce Humbert

You need to factor in his $8M signing bonus – which he got with no risk a bit over 4 years ago and would have kept if he never pitched an inning in the majors. The MONTHLY interest on a well invested 4 million – after taxes and a few goodies for himself and family would be more than many of the fans sitting in PNC make in a year.

Blaine Huff

Yup…enjoy him while we can…if he keeps pitching like this, he’s a $28M pitcher, at least, when 2020 rolls around.


One topic that hasn’t really been broached is if we tender Locke – and he gets beaten out by a free agent – does he have the skill set to succeed in the pen? If he could, that would cover our lefty reliever need. I can’t recall if he is a slow starter, he does seem to have some wildness. But at least he wouldn’t have to face a lineup more than once through

Timothy G

If they ultimately do keep Alvarez around this year, I vote that someone must inspect his first basemans mitt before each game. 🙂 I rememeber at least two instances where the ball went through his webbing. I’ve never seen this happen to anyone else.


I think it is likely the Pirates tender Alvarez a contract, but I think it is preposterous that he would receive a qualifying offer next season.

As for his fielding improving, first it is hard to get worse, second there is some recent examples, notably Eric Hosmer of 1B turning into respectable fielders after being abysmal. But Hosmer’s issues were more range as opposed to errors.

One would think that spending somewhere between $12-16 million on first base the returns would be more promising.


Agree with all of that, but I’d be shocked if they actually tendered him. Just isn’t their MO.

Mallorie D

I think they actually should keep him at this point. Josh Bell wont be ready at season’s beginning and while Morse is a decent player, I dont think you can rely on him full time.


Totally. Morse staying healthy for just a month would be noteworthy.


I’d be totally okay if they non-tendered Locke.

Luke S

And we’d realize how dumb we were being about acting like Locke is awful when we look around and realize any other back end arm is either far more expensive or just as flawed.

At least the “Morton sucks, just dump him” makes sense from a money standpoint. Locke is cheap, eats enough innings, and isnt near as bad as PGH fans imagine he is.


I wouldn’t be.


If all those Indy arms were healthy, I’d give that more of a chance. But they arent, and they are currently short.

And I realize Locke has his shortcomings, but for that price, a lefty with 80 ML starts the last three years? He’d be out of work less than 5 minutes.

Thomas H

I have been for trading Pedro for two years. I think his shortcomings are such that he will always be a marginally good player. I don’t think he will ever be a great player or worth the aggravation he has put the Pirates through to date. That said, I think the smart thing to do is tender him, trade him if possible. If not, he should be their first baseman until the end of this season or until Bell is ready, whichever comes first. That’s the only way the Pirates will get anything from the investment that they’ve already made in Pedro.

That said, I really don’t think the Pirates feel the same way as I do. Huntington has criticized him publicly. Pedro has publicly asked for a trade. I don’t think either thing would happen if it was expected that a tender offer was going to be made. I think that Clint Hurdel has had it with him too. Otherwise he would have started in the wildcard game. My expectation is that Pedro will not receive a tender offer today. In the end, I am not sure it will make much difference to the Pirates long term success. Pedro isn’t in their plans anyway. I do think that whatever they do at first base will have a significant impact on their success in 2016.

If the Pirates front office have identified a first baseman who is better then Pedro and who would cost them less, that’s the way they should go – however they get there. I don’t think there’s anyone like that out there. For all of his faults, and they are many, Pedro was no worse then their third best offensive player. There’s no one on the lineup or in the organization that can hit for power like he does and they will miss him for that.


With it being a contract year, you have to assume Pedro has spent time working on his defense. Is it possible that we could say his defense can’t be any worse? Or is that too ignorant of an assumption? It makes more sense to me to keep him at his current value and hope for the best. However, i haven’t seen anyone suggest maybe a mid season trade to an AL team in need of his services. If Bell is ready by mid-June, then trade him at that point? Just a thought…

Blaine Huff

All you folks are going to be red-faced when Pedro has a monster year, wins a gold glove, and the Pirates bring him back for 7/175.


Tim used the extra money from the subscription model to hire Blaine as the site’s new posi-troll. He trolls the shit out of everyone but they feel strangely good about it afterwards.


…plenty of money left in the till for a sarcas-troll.


If it was my call, I stick it out with him for another year.

But I think he’s done with them. I think he’s ready for a change himself. And a new coaching staff and strategy at the plate. And watching Hurdle and hearing what NH has said, they look done too.

Should be interesting, especially if he does leave, what’s said by both camps.


David Price will make, in 2 starts, more than our tender candidates COMBINED!

However, I am sooooooooooooooooo glad that his ego took him to Boston rather than St Louis.


…or Chicago.


‘seasons’…..not ‘starts’.

Bill W

The MATH MAJOR explains your insane reliance on saber-metrics. At times this totally ELUDES reason. lol

Bill W

What exactly are you alluding to? Your opinion deludes any significance as it relates to the PBC. I would use delusional but again it is the holiday spirit. Also I think you have lost your Eddie moniker.


The scary thing is that I was a math major at PSU.

I am soooooooooooooooooooo ashamed right now.

I must’ve been on ‘ludes.

Blaine Huff

I question that math…two starts = ~$2M…

did you mean seasons?


yes….seasons, not starts….



After what Trumbo was just traded for…I can’t imagine Alvarez bringing back anything tender or not. Just walk away and use the $8M to get another arm.


Ya know….when you DO see all that Trumbo brought back (Steve Clevenger), we either have to cut bait with Pedro or hang onto him for one last year.

I vote we give him $8 mil and hope his defense improves.


The Alvarez conundrum…His fielding is mlb worst with a chance of getting better in his second year. However, it is unlikely Hurdle would trust him in late game situations. Stats say he is a good hitter yet he will not start against lefties and teams will bring in lefties in pressure situations forcing Hurdle to pinch hit for him. When we face righties, he will still likely bat 6th in the lineup after – Polanco, Walker, Cutch, Kang, and Marte. He’ll get into two hot streaks during the year and disappear the rest while slugging about 30 home runs (although 29 will be solo).

Scott K

A bit exaggerated, but certainly valid in your assessment of his value, or lack thereof.


Bombast (and negativity) sells; )

Joshua R

This is spot on.


You definitely tender him. He is still young. He would be a good DH but it’s still possible he can find his way defensively. Could he possibly go back to 3B with Kang out?


3B: noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo

Arik Florimonte

well, his defense at 3B actually *was* less bad than his defense at 1B.


I agree he should be tendered because he’s worth his contract on the trade market. even if he isn’t worth it in a Bucs uniform.

But there aren’t as many good trade partners as you’d think. Most all the free-spending AL teams already have a DH better than Alvarez. The only teams he’d really improve are the Rays and A’s (who wouldn’t make a deal like that), the Tigers (if V-Mart’s knees are shot and his career is done), and the Orioles (who might just sign a different free agent bat to DH).

If they’re going to do a deal in the off-season with an AL team, the Orioles and Tigers seem like the only real options, unless a team like the Dodgers feels like adding to their $40m cap penalty to add even more hitters that never play. It may happen that they need to take Alvarez into the season, let him make a mess of the first base defense until June, then move him to whichever AL contender is suffering with injuries and name Bell the new starting 1B.


Orioles just got Trumbo…and the Rays and As are making that move…maybe you can package him but not likely for much return. Maybe Seattle would be interested now without Trumbo


Why would Seattle want him when they already traded a poor fielding 1bman away? DiPoto is looking to better their defense….not make it worse. 🙂

Bill W

You will have about $15 million tied up in a platoon first base system. Plus you have Wonder Boy Bell waiting in the wings. I’d keep Pedro and hope he plays for a big contract. But you have to question how did we get to this situation with two marginal and expensive assets at first.

Arik Florimonte

1. Morse doesn’t need to be in a platoon. He hits fine against both LHP and RHP. His biggest issue is staying healthy.
2. Morse is a sunk cost. He has basically zero trade value (he was essentially given away twice last year).
3. If NH thinks Morse can do the job and stay healthy enough all year than there’s no reason to get anyone else.
4. If NH doesn’t think Morse can do the job all year (either due to health or talent), he needs another 1B option, and they don’t get much cheaper than Alvarez at $8M, warts and all. Think of it as buying low.


Penny wise and pound foolish, Bill.

This is nothing new, either. They’ve been dumping money into crappy platoon players for years.


$15M that likely returns negative or replacement t value…does not seem in our best interest at all

Blaine Huff

I agree, but I do question the “play for a big contract” aspect. He’s had opportunities to play for a big arbitration payday for a couple of years now and hasn’t taken advantage of them.

I would say, tender him. Try to trade for something worthwhile. If that can’t be done, let him hold down first base until Bell gets here.

If Bell’s bat play in the majors from mid-June through the end of July, there will be some power-hungry AL team that wouldn’t mind giving up a little something and paying $4M for his power.

Bill W

I just can’t see why they will have that much money tied up in two platoon players. First base has been a real dead spot for this team.

Blaine Huff

Totally agree that it’s a dead spot…but, really, there aren’t any legitimate options.

Yeah, they could go after Ike Davis or Moss and hope they bounce back…but that’s still, basically, saying: yeah…good chance this isn’t going to work.


In 2003 the Pirates made a move to trade their 25 year old 3B, because his bat lacked consistency, his glove was scary, and mostly because he would cost too much the following year. After 90+ games he had already posted 23 errors at 3B for a .924 fielding percentage. Then after being traded, we watched as he achieved stardom on both sides of the ball for the Cubs and then the Brewers.

Pedro will not remain in Pittsburgh beyond 2016 either by our decision or his, but he has a skill that many teams would love to get. 27 HR’s, 77 RBI’s playing in a home park that is a pitchers dream. Put him in the AL with some of the truly hitter friendly parks, where he can DH or play 3B, and the numbers will escalate greatly. For now though, we need to tender him and at least allow ourselves to get to the plate to possibly return some value for the skill he does possess.

Thomas H

When the Pirates dumped Ramirez, they said publicly that it was done to dump salary because they were in debt. It had nothing to do with performance.

Now, if you want to make a comparison, I think you could compare Pedro’s situation to Bautista’s situation when he was a Pirate. They gave up on Bautista, arguably too early. I just don’t think there’s anyway Pedro Alvarez turns out to be as good as Jose Bautista


Ever before the power showed up, Joey Bats could get on base. Pedro’s sub .300 OBP is just ugly.

Mallorie D

He has a career .309 OBP…just saying. I think you tender, consider trying to get a decent trade for him, but I’m starting to lean more towards keeping him. They just dont have enough home run power and frankly they need more of that, not less, especially if they trade Neil Walker.

At this point, I’d rather keep Alvarez for 1 more year and trade either Walker or Melancon. Why? Because the latter two, especially Walker should be able to grab a decent return. Alvarez, I doubt is going to bring much in return in trade. Its not out of the realm of possibility that he isnt atleast a little better at 1B this year…I mean he cant be much worse.


How many of his home runs though were a solo homer in a 10-1 game? Sure, he has power but does his power actually contribute to wins. I’d rather have some guy that can hit doubles and get on base at a much higher clip.


Alvarez’s RBIs were the winning margin in seven of the games in which he homered.


You know, for all the people that make this blanket statement like it’s fact, not one of them has actually ever figured out the damn question.

Start with that before asking your own.


Well, when you’re a one-trick pony, that one trick better make a difference. Here’s his game log. If he did more than just hit occasional homers that would be one thing. Very rarely did his homers actually affect the outcome of a game.

Luke S

Its a total BS point, made by people too lazy to look up his stats in low vs medium vs high leverage situations and compare.

I did this like a week ago in a thread. Pedro is not a different hitter in a sizable way and would hit just as many HRs in high leverage as low leverage if players were put into high leverage as often as low leverage.

Pedro isnt lacking in high leverage, he’s lacking overall.


If only that’s how baseball worked.


No, they traded him because the team was in debt.

Scott K

I will be surprised if he’s non-tendered. Although I can certainly understand the argument to do it.

I do believe he’s played his last game as a Pirate though. Certainly best for him if he were to be a DH in AL next season.


His defensive work has been bad and it does not seem to be getting any better. In 2012 he fielded at a .926 clip but was in the upper half of Total Chances. In 2013 he fielded at a .941 clip with more TC’s than all but one other 3B. Instead of continuing the improvement he fell back and at this point he is a defensive detriment, but he is still only 28.

He hit 27 HR’s in only 437 AB’s in 2015 which is about 1 every 16+ AB’s. He still has the bat and the Pirates still need that in the middle of the order – 4, 5, or 6. At $8 mil that is a bargain for that type of offensive productivity, and I would work him at 3B/1B in ST.

Definitely tender and wait for the phone to ring.


At $8M he needs to be at least a 1 WAR player…after what we saw last year, even banking on some defensive improvement do you really think he’s a 1 WAR player? Certainly not with any surplus value…

Arik Florimonte

Steamer believes he’ll be 0.8 fWar in 111 games.

Scott K

I’d like to think another off-season of work will make him a better defensive 1B, but I don’t believe it will. He just seems to be the next Steve Sax, Chuck Knoblach type player.

Hate to see his power leave the lineup, but I think it best for all parties if he goes to AL team.

Arik Florimonte

I would be okay rolling the dice on another year of Alvarez. This analysis assumes that it won’t get any better, but it’s perfectly reasonable to speculate that he would be better in year 2 at a new position than in year 1. His defense can’t possibly get worse.

As for the rest of the list, yes, tender everyone.


With Alvarez and NW “covering” the right side of the field is clear to me why the overall team defense suffered last year, expecting Alvarez to improve is a tall order he has regressed defensively every year, the pressure of the walk year might do more harm than good to a player who’s mental strength has been in question through out his career. So I vote to let him go and use that money wisely. I wrote it yesterday and will Do it gain. NW you are the Pirates employee, move to 1b, sign Asdrubal Cabrera to play 2b.

Arik Florimonte

If you mean regress by the dictionary meaning (i.e. getting worse every year, rather than the statistical meaning), then it’s simply not true.

Alvarez defense improved by 8 runs from 2012 to 2013. And in 2014 his fielding got much better and his throws went in the tank.

There exists in his track record the ability to field well. And we all can recall that the throwing issues occurred usually on routine plays, and not on rushed plays. Since 1B rarely has to make throws, and when they do they are not routine, it seems there’s a not unlikely path to improvement.

But put all that aside: what’s more likely, that he’ll repeat the worst fielding of his career, or that he’ll regress (statistically speaking) toward the mean?

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