First Pitch: Who Should the Pirates Consider For an Extension?

Rob Biertempfel of the Trib reported tonight that Scott Boras would be open to a long-term deal involving Pedro Alvarez and the Pittsburgh Pirates. In the article, Biertempfel quoted Frank Coonelly and Scott Boras, who both said they’d be open to the discussions. That doesn’t mean much, since discussions are far from a deal. The more important thing is what is said during the discussions.

All you need to know about Scott Boras is that he usually has a set value for his players, and that value is usually higher than you’d expect. Teams balk at the prices, fans laugh at how Boras finally screwed over one of his clients by asking for too much, and in most cases Boras gets the money for his player in the end. The most telling quote in the story was when Boras described what Alvarez could be in the future, and what his value would be to other teams.

“People always ask me about the rarity of power at third base,” Boras said. “Teams that have a player with the combination of 20 to 30 (home run) power and quality defense at third base are the teams that are usually in the playoffs.

“It would be a very wise business move for the Pirates to continue their relationship with Pedro. There are 29 other major league teams that would want to do the same thing. He’s gotten better every year — and his best years are yet to come. Part of our evaluation (of any offer) will be about where he is going in his career and what is fair.”

29 other major league teams would want Alvarez. Alvarez is a rare player due to his power at third base. His best years are yet to come. These are classic Boras negotiation tactics.

I don’t want to talk about Alvarez specifically here, because my analysis would be “I don’t see him signing”. I also don’t think the Pirates should sign him, unless they can get a fair deal based on a realistic value. I don’t see that happening.

Instead, what I want to discuss is the topic of when the Pirates should consider extensions. One of the things I see a lot is people suggesting extensions for any player that isn’t horrible. Neil Walker, Garrett Jones, Pedro Alvarez, Wandy Rodriguez…these are all good players in their own right. However, not all of them would be worth extensions.

The player who gets discussed most often here is Walker. He’s a Pittsburgh guy, and was grouped in with Alvarez, Jose Tabata, and Andrew McCutchen as part of the core. There have been rumors of extension discussions, but nothing has happened yet, obviously. I’ve never been in favor of a Walker extension. For one, the Pirates have him under control for three more years after this season. He’s also going to be in his early 30s when he’s free agent eligible, so you’re buying out years where he could potentially be on the decline.

The Pirates dodged a bullet a few years ago when Jack Wilson and Freddy Sanchez declined extensions. Both players saw their careers go downhill almost immediately. That’s not an uncommon story. Walker would be at risk for declined production, an increase in injuries, or both. Add in the fact that he looks like a platoon player with a career trend of struggling against left-handers, and he doesn’t seem like the best candidate for an extension. Really, if he wasn’t from Pittsburgh, there probably wouldn’t be as big of a movement for his extension.

You also have to consider the minor league system. The Pirates have to continuously replace older, higher priced players with younger, cheaper options. That is what will allow them to eventually contend while paying big dollars to Andrew McCutchen and whatever other players they extend. Realistically they can’t afford to extend everyone. They need to pick and choose certain positions where they could easily find an internal replacement.

Second base would be one of those positions. Jordy Mercer has stepped up this year at shortstop, and could be an option there going forward. But the team also has Alen Hanson playing well in Bradenton, and he’s got the skills to stick at short. If both work out, one of them would have to shift to second. Then there’s Dilson Herrera, who is having a big year with West Virginia. He’s a second baseman, and could be up by the time Walker is ready for free agency. The Pirates have three more years to develop an internal replacement, and two of their top hitting prospects are candidates. Thus, there should be no urgency to extend Walker right now.

You could make the same argument for Garrett Jones. He’s one of the best power hitters on the team, but he’s getting up there in age, and isn’t going to be extremely difficult to replace. He’s a platoon player, and the Pirates have a lot of guys in the system who hit right-handers but don’t hit lefties. If they had to turn to the open market, those guys come cheaper than most first basemen. There’s also the chance that they could draft someone to eventually take over at first (D.J. Peterson?), or that they could develop one of their internal options (Stetson Allie? Josh Bell?).

An Alvarez extension would be nice, but seems unlikely. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

An Alvarez extension would be nice, but seems unlikely. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

On the flip side of the Walker/Jones debate is Alvarez. In theory, Alvarez would be perfect for an extension. The Pirates don’t have a lot of depth at third base. The only prospect is Eric Wood, and he’s a sleeper in low-A ball. Even if they draft D.J. Peterson, he’s more likely to end up at first base. Unless Colin Moran magically falls to them at number nine this year, they won’t have a strong replacement for Alvarez anywhere close.

The problem is I don’t see Alvarez signing for reasons mentioned above. I also think the Pirates should be hesitant on any deal with him. At this point he’s looking like a platoon player, or a poor man’s Mark Reynolds (who is already a poor man’s Adam Dunn), or a bit of both. Based on the quote above, I can see Boras asking for more than that value, and I’m not sure it would be wise to pay that, since I’m not sure Alvarez can add to his upside with all of the strikeouts. Alvarez would be a great guy to extend due to the lack of internal options, but he’s probably unlikely to be extended.

There’s another factor to consider here, and that’s value. If there’s one person I’d extend on this team, it’s Starling Marte. He’s gotten off to a great start to his career, and you can see how he could get better in the future. If the Pirates locked him up now, they could get him for a potentially huge value. Marte would also be a better candidate for an extension, since he only received an $85,000 bonus. By comparison, Alvarez received $6 M. So it’s not like he’s going to be desperate for an extension.

The Rays have had a lot of success extending guys early in their career for extremely low prices. Not all of those guys work out. We’ve seen some of that already with the Pirates and Jose Tabata. But if that approach leads to a huge value with someone like Marte, then you can afford the misses that eventually will pay Tabata $4 M to be a bench player. You’d like to have that crystal ball that will tell you which guys will work out and improve over the long-run, but without that you have to just play the numbers game.

There’s a few players I’d extend right now. Marte is priority number one. Alvarez would be a choice in a dream world where that sort of extension would be possible. I’d try to get A.J. Burnett for 1-2 more years before he hits the open market, or even after he hits the open market. Younger guys who I’d have an eye on, but wouldn’t consider at the moment, would be Jordy Mercer and Jeff Locke.

Looking down the line in the minors, Gerrit Cole is a Boras client, putting him in the same situation as Alvarez. Jameson Taillon is a Hendricks client, which could be just as difficult, but maybe a bit more possible than the Boras clients. Either way I’d try with those two, going for a David Price type deal. Looking way down the line, if Gregory Polanco ($75,000 bonus), Alen Hanson ($150,000 bonus), and Tyler Glasnow ($600,000 bonus) work out, they would be prime candidates for early extension talk to buy out free agent years.

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**Pirates Acquire Graham Godfrey From the Red Sox.

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**Pirates Notebook: Presley Joins at the One-Third Mark.

**Pirates Recall Presley, Option Harrison, Reinstate and Option D’Arnaud.

Tim Williams

Author: Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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  • emjayinTN

    Tim: Pedro will not hit his 1st year of Arb until after the 2013 season. If one makes an extrapolation using Neil Walker getting $3.3 mil as a Super Two after the 2012 season, and will probably get $4.5 mil plus after 2013, Pedro could be looking at $5-6 mil + as a 25 double/30 HR/85 RBI in 2012, and probably equal to or better in 2013. He will play all of 2013 as a 26 year old, and, in my estimation, the Pirates have faced some of the best pitching in the majors in their first 55 games. He is frustratingly talented, and has only recently made any attempt to use the whole field – best example was the double to the Notch in LC against Anibal Sanchez to drive in the runs that tied the game in the bottom of the 7th, and led to our eventual victory. A naturally powerful kid who has learned a lot as a 23, 24, and 25 year old, he can only get better – let’s not create another Aramis Ramirez. I have yet to read anything that is detrimental about his attitude and work ethic. Pay the money – Not Another ARAM that we have to endure killing us for 10 years or longer with another team.

  • http://www.facebook.com/richard.yazhynka Richard Ya’Zhynka

    Starling Marte’s start is a lot less great than it was a month ago. In May, he hit .243/.296/.383 for an OPS of .679 with 26 strikeouts and only 3 walks.

    • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

      yep…no hurry at this time….

      • http://www.facebook.com/richard.yazhynka Richard Ya’Zhynka

        Plate discipline is a glaring issue with Marte. His May might have been the result of major league pitchers seeing that they don’t ever have to throw him a strike.

        • maguro

          I think Marte is just one of those guys who’s going to run hot and cold. Not really a big deal, unless you expected him to hit .330 all year.

  • http://www.facebook.com/matt.beam.16 Matt Beam

    Any concern with Pedro about him being less diligent with his body if he gets the extension/big deal? He’s naturally thick and staying in tip top shape I think will always be a pre-requisite for him to stick at 3B and avoid injuries.

  • http://www.facebook.com/benjaminmcferren Benjamin McFerren

    What is your opinion of a Wandy extension?

    What does the ‘potentially $7.5MM in 2014′ part of this article mean: http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2012/07/pirates-close-to-acquiring-wandy-rodriguez.html

    To me it would seem to be out of our budget…

    It looks like next year, we will have Barmes ($5/yr) gone, GIJones ($5/yr) gone, Wandy ($5/yr) gone.

    So with the opportunity cost of $15, we can afford to pay to extend Burnett and all the arbitration raises. McCutchen also gets a $3 mil raise next year.

    Of course, that money could go to Wandy’s option but it doesn’t look like we can keep both

  • Monkshot

    I really like Pedro and I understand the problem of depth at 3rd but I let Pedro walk unless it’s a fair deal. I wouldn’t over pay much for potential. I have a unfounded theory he wants to be a Yankee, playing for his home town team, hitting 50 HRs a year over that little league wall in right. What’s his line in NY anyways? He seems to play better when he’s there.

    • skliesen

      Pirates will never let Pedro walk. Under any circumstances. If Pedro doesn’t want to stay, or Pirates are unwilling to pay, they will deal him. Personally, I, maybe for first time ever, agree w/Boras. Power hitting 3B who can field is a premium position, worthy of greater compensation, and Pirates should budget their payroll accordingly when the time comes to buck up.

      • Monkshot

        Absolutely you trade him if you are too far apart on a new deal. What would he be worth to a team is a awesome question.

  • jaygray007

    yeah i don’t understand why this is a story right now. if you ask me i’d sooner nontender pedro than extend him.

    that said, i wouldn’t be close to nontendering him or extending him.

    I feel like pittsburgh fans have this weird fetish with contract extensions. It just strikes me as weird that this is being brought up right now from Biertempfel.

    The event that made me realize the extension fetish is that the first thing asked to Jarome Iginla when he got into the Penguins’ locker room was “would you consider a contract extension?” I dunno. It all just strikes me as strange.

    • jaygray007

      another note: I understand talking about extending Marte, as he has shown flashes of stardom and both sides have reasons to make the deal.

  • http://twitter.com/hoosierIUdaddy hoosierIUdaddy

    I would be all for resigning Pedro if he was like Pedro Cerrano from Major League … .250 avg and 25-35 HRs, but he is below the Mendoza line. I think Pedro is prime trade bait. Marte I would think about extending and I agree Walker does seem like a great platoon man so in extending him I would think about that and something like 5 yrs/17.5M would be pretty fair. AJ resigned before Wandy and Wandy I would shop for whatever I could get bc Liriano has played well and we have the horses coming up in the system. Locke let’s see you do it next year. Tabata no matter what he does is not worth the money he got so he should probably be moved. I don’t like Garrett Jones (good production) but he is getting older and could probably get a decent AA or A+ prospect. I could care less about contending this year I am more worried about having money available to give to Cole and Taillon, both of which should get extensions after one start in MLB. Lol

    • http://twitter.com/hoosierIUdaddy hoosierIUdaddy

      I would think about packaging Gregory Polanco, Pedro, plus a pitcher I’ll give you a guy I like in Nick Kingham to get Miguel Sano 3B from Minnesota. Dude is a monster! And then extend him. Lol. I’m only giving money to guys that can play year in and year out not flashes in the pan. No more Meares, Derek Bell, Kendall deals. Thank you