First Pitch: How Long Will Pedro Alvarez Be a Pittsburgh Pirate?

Pedro Alvarez Pirates

Pedro Alvarez is a free agent after the 2016 season. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

Today I recapped the third base position, which was mostly a recap of how Pedro Alvarez did in 2013 and how there are no internal options to eventually replace Alvarez at third base. Later in the evening, Alvarez won his first Silver Slugger award after leading all NL third basemen with 36 home runs.

In the last two years, Alvarez has taken some huge strides with his game. The 2011 season was a disaster, with Alvarez posting a .561 OPS and going down to Triple-A multiple times to work on his hitting. That raised a lot of questions heading into the 2012 season about whether Alvarez should even be on the Opening Day roster. He responded in 2012 by hitting 30 home runs and posting a .784 OPS. In 2013 he hit 36 homers, with a .770 OPS. More importantly, he improved his defense, holding off the questions about when he might eventually move to first base.

The Pirates should keep Alvarez at third base for the next three years. That’s not just due to their shortage of third base options, but it’s also due to is abilities at the position, and the value he brings at the position with the bat. But what about after the 2016 season? Alvarez will be a free agent, entering his age 30 season, and the Pirates have a slim chance of re-signing him.

If there’s any hope that Alvarez could be signed to an extension, that hope is ruined by the reminder that he is a Scott Boras client. Boras clients usually go to free agency when they are first eligible. There are some exceptions, but they are rare and I wouldn’t count on Alvarez being one of those exceptions. That’s especially true when you look at the history of top free agent third basemen.

Kevin Youkilis – He got $12 M on a one year deal, even though he was coming off a down year and was 34 years old in 2013.

Aramis Ramirez – He got three years and $36 M at the age of 34, prior to the 2012 season.

Adrian Beltre – This was one of the bigger deals, with Beltre getting six years and $96 M, for an average of $16 M per year. Beltre was about to turn 32 heading into the 2011 season.

There haven’t been many top free agent third basemen, with those being the biggest examples since 2009. Alvarez will be 30 in the first year of his deal, so he’s probably looking at an Adrian Beltre type deal more than a deal like Ramirez and Youkilis received. Considering the increased national TV revenues, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Alvarez get $20 M per year. A power hitting third baseman is rare, and if Alvarez continues playing well defensively at the position he could definitely get a massive deal.

The Pirates could afford Alvarez at $20 M per year, but it would be a stretch. They will be paying Andrew McCutchen $14 M in 2017, with a $14.75 M option in 2018. Starling Marte is arbitration eligible for his second and third years in 2017 and 2018. Gerrit Cole and Tony Sanchez will be entering their first arbitration years.

For the first two years the Pirates could afford Alvarez, but only if their roster was home grown. If they had a rotation that was mostly made up of guys like Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon, Tyler Glasnow, and Nick Kingham, then they would be off to a good start. However, the Pirates signing Alvarez would hurt their chances of signing McCutchen when he’s a free agent. They have internal options that would allow them to move on from McCutchen, and go with a guy like Austin Meadows as a replacement. But there’s no way the Pirates could bring back both Alvarez and McCutchen once they reach free agency, as that combination would take up at least 40% of their payroll.

Three years is still a long time, although it doesn’t provide enough time develop a third baseman internally. The best bet for the Pirates to replace Alvarez would be to acquire a prospect via trade over the next few years, or land a cheaper free agent who might not hit 30 homers a year, but could provide good overall value at the position. If that doesn’t happen, then the Pirates could probably afford to bring Alvarez back as a free agent. It just wouldn’t be easy, and would probably require that they move on from McCutchen two years later.

Links and Notes

**Andrew McCutchen and Pedro Alvarez Win Silver Slugger Awards

**Pittsburgh Pirates 2013 Season Recap: Third Base

**Jim Benedict Turns Down the Phillies

Winter Leagues

**Winter Leagues: Matt Hague Hits Second Homer in Loss

**AFL: Three Hits For Alen Hanson In Win

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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  • jaygray007

    Pedro Alvarez is a good player and I like Pedro Alvarez, but Pedro Alvarez is also becoming overrated, IMO.

    He was a 3 win player, which is AWESOME. But wouldnt you think a 36homer guy would have had more of an impact?

    Like I said, Pedro’s good, but I think it’s easy to overrate home runs.

    Then again, if you follow the $7 million per WAR rule for the open market, i guess he is in theory worth 20 mil. I dunno. I’m just stalling before I go to work. I don’t even know if these words are coherent.

  • CalipariFan506

    To hit 36HR and OPS .770 is all I need to know. Trading him today would make the Pirates a better team.

    • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 leefoo

      Calipari…I agree with you. Pedro’s important offensive metrics for the most part WENT DOWN (ISO and line drive slightly up).

      He is who he is and if we can get a good return, go for it, Neal.

    • buster09

      And who then would you put at third base Calipari ? And before you say ” Mercer “,that means you have who at SS ? By the way,Hanson,if ever at SS,is at least two seasons away based on what I saw of him in Altoona in 2013. You just do NOT up and trade away a starter at any position unless you know who you have to play that position at the Major League level.

      • https://www.facebook.com/scott.skink Scott Skink

        It’s all about “the pipeline” you know. Winning is secondary!

        IMO, you don’t give even a passing thought to moving Pedro this year. While the pipeline provides for a potential window for the next few years, 2014 is for all intents and purposes THE window, where you ADD not subtract. Could be the last seasons for Liriano, Martin, Morton. If Burnett is on board, it’s definitely his last. Probably same for Byrd if you resign him.

        I would not consider moving Pedro until next year’s offseason at earliest, and only if I had somebody better than Mercer or Walker to take that spot.

        If Pedro maintains production, I’d be more inclined to cash in Marte around then anyway. Bucs shouldn’t have any OF issues for quite some time. And you can always QO Pedro when that time comes.

  • Ron Zorn

    Shouldn’t we ask, “What would the Rays do?” If, as pointed out in the article, third basemen are so valuable, two routes to explore. Keep Pedro for next year, then offer in trade next winter, two years of arbitration left. If we disappoint this coming year, aren’t in contention for some reason (God forbid), we flip him for a massive return at the deadline.

    Pedro seems like a really good kid and I would like to have him. But he knows better than anybody that if you hire Scott Boras, you aren’t sticking around. If you want to stay, hire a different agent, tell him you want to stay, and take the five year $70M-$80M deal with our Bucs.

    Power hitting third baseman are a luxury, not a necessity, proven by this years playoff teams. It is important that you have a certain amount of impact players on your team, but I don’t think the positions they play are as important as the number.

    Cutch is the leader of our beloved Bucco’s, through talent and work ethic. We can only afford some many, and he has to be one or the one. I think NH knows or has learned how to trade a guy at top value.

    Lastly, instead of worrying about what will happen after next year and the year after, and so on…… how about we try to enjoy what we have, really good baseball in the Burgh.

    Thanks for a great year Buccos, I am just now recovering from the end, but that is one of the things that made it great!

  • JollyRogerFan

    I would like to see the Pirates trade Pedro and obtain Kyle Seager from the Mariners. Don’t know how this could happen – maybe involve the Yankees who are probably going to be looking for a 3B soon. This will send Pedro back to his home city and would provide the Pirates with a player with a higher ceiling going forward and probably someone they can afford to keep around for along time since they have no minor league alternatives right now. Seager will provide a higher batting average, much higher OBP and his LH power will play up in PNC (25 – 30 HRs). He hits a ton of doubles and strikes out very little – about half as much as Pedro. His defense is no worse than Pedro’s.

    • buster09

      Personally,I would like to see the Bucs trade Pedro and get Seager and Walker from the Mariners,but I am realistic about it : you aren’t going to get either, let alone both.

      • JollyRogerFan

        The Pirates don’t need Taijuan Walker with all of the pitching they have. I would just settle for Seager. The Mariners appear short on good OF prospects and 2 of their top 7 prospects are 3B in the minor leagues – including DJ Peterson #12 overall pick in 2013. The Pirates could trade Alvarez and Bell – both Boras clients – and obtain Seager. The Pirates would control him for 4 more years, and he is a legitimate cleanup hitter. The Mariners get a power hitting 3B who could still hit for power in their ballpark and hold the position until Romero or Peterson are ready. Seager was batting .290 in July but then had a rough August and Sept. He hits exceptionally well outside of the Seattle stadium (2/3rds of his homers were away.)

        • buster09

          Call up the GM in Seattle,Jack Z.,and see how long it takes for him to laugh at you.

        • buster09

          ” The Pirates don’t need Taijuan Walker with all of the pitching they have. ” You weren’t serious when you made this statement,were you ?

  • elgaupo

    I think Mercer is our next 3B. He’ll be a 2 WAR guy there and it will be mostly defense and offense against LHP.

    • TNBucs

      There is real potential with this idea. We’ll have to wait and see if Jordy can sustain his success from 2013. But how many people realize that Jordy had a higher OPS (granted, 772 vs. 770) and is essentially the same age as Pedro?

      Obviously we like Jordy’s bat at SS, but the jury is still out on his defense there. If Hanson pans out, then the timing will work out pretty well to use Mercer to replace Alvarez while moving Hanson into SS.

  • deacs

    I’m very torn on this. I tend to view Pedro with rose colored glasses because he brings power to the Pirates that they desperately need and can instantly change a game and so I’m willing to live with the strikeouts etc. And rational or not his amazing plays at third allow me to overlook his errors on the routine plays. And so I’d like to ride Pedro for the next 3 years and would be ok watching him walk.

    But the other part of me says we should sell at peak value and I’m intrigued at what we could get back. But I think this is very different from selling high on relievers because we essentially have no other options at 3B. So in the end I’d probably keep Pedro for the next 3 years, pray another option comes along or hope that he takes a “hometown discount” at $15 million a year or something.

  • stickyweb

    With Boras as his agent and with zero indication from Pedro that he even likes playing for the Bucs, I think an extension and/or home town discount are not options. plus he’s from NY, which has 2 teams that would love to bring a big, slugging native son back home and have the resources to so. So it comes down to getting 3 more years out of him and getting a comp pick (assuming the same rules are in place at that point) vs. trading him sooner, getting somewhere between 1/2 a season and 2 1/2 seasons from him and getting prospects in return. I don’t see them trading him before this season, unless they get blown away with a deal, including a MLB ready 3B under control for at least 2 or 3 years, and I doubt another team would value his HRs enough to do that. There’s the option of trading him now, getting great prospects at other posiitons and signing a free agent for the short term, but the 3B free agent market is terrible this year.

    So it comes down to when his value will be highest. Offensively, he actually took a tiny step backward this year, but the incease in HRs pretty much overshadows that. Defensively, he took a step forward. He’ll turn 27 before next year so I’d be inclined to let him play another year, hopefully become more disciplined at the plate and improve his overall numbers and seriously take a look at trading him next off season. This also gives you another year of development for Hansen to see if he gets closer to MLB ready since you can move forward with a combo of Walker, Mercer and Hansen at 2B, 3B and SS.

    • https://www.facebook.com/scott.skink Scott Skink

      This doesn’t fit the sabremetrics narrative, but playoff teams looking to add Pedro will look at his NLDS performance in addition to the regular season #s.

      I’m having a hard time swallowing the fact that so many of you are willing to just settle with Mercer at 3B. You have that, plus Loney at 1b, you better make sure everyone ups their RISP average by 50-80 points because nobody’s going to be changing a game with one swing – which is what the Pirates have been doing past couple of years.

  • piraterican21

    3 years is a long time, and a player with Pedro’s skill set and body type don’t tend to age well, so let’s enjoy the next 2-3 years. Replacing him looks like it will take place by trade, I’m all for trading Liriano now for MLB ready prospects now and signing someone like J. Johnson as has been discuss on this site, another immediate possibility is sending Melancon to the Tigers for Castellon, send him to AAA to refine his 3b fielding skills and have him become or 3b of the future starting in 2015.

    • buster09

      Not to punch a hole in your daydream,pirate,but if you think that the Tigers are going to give up their top prospect for a 28 year old reliever who has had one really good season,and that after a bad one,you sadly mistaken.

  • https://profiles.google.com/102804497270034978273 Marco Rincones

    Only later this past season did I begin to have an attitude adjustment with regard to Pedro Alvarez. Too often he left too many RISP situations by walking back to the dugout with the bat in his hands and no baserunners scored or moved any closer to scoring. Now granted, Pedro was not the only Bucco disappointing in this regard but with him batting cleanup and with runs at a premium many times, I was pulling out what little hair I have left. Then, when Byrd and Morneau were added to the lineup things seemed to change a bit for the better. Perhaps it was just my attitude that had changed but did it not seem to appear that Pedro had a better approach at the plate when he was moved down in the order. Was it being moved down and/or did Pedro glean something from watching Byrd and Morneau that he hadn’t processed prior to their arrival? Anyway, it will be most interesting to see what kind of year Pedro has in 2014. Can he build upon the positives he established in ’13 or will he take a step back and continue to be referred to as “Kdro” too often going forward.

  • CalipariFan506

    Hitting .770 doesn’t make you a power hitter. Walker didn’t OPS much less than that and he is a guy we all think needs to be hitting 7th or platooned. Alvarez needs to either improve both his K and BB rate or get over 50 HR a season to be a truly elite hitter.

    However enough teams see him there already to get a steal in a trade.

    • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 leefoo

      Calipari…again, I agree. Everyone looks at his 36 HRs and 100 RBIs like he was some kind of ‘monster’ hitter. He wasn’t.

    • Andrew

      Having a 26.3% HR/FB ratio and 311.76′ batted ball distance does make you a “power” hitter.

      I think your assessment of the Pedro Alvarez is correct. But just because fans over-value power does not mean that front offices will, I do not think anyone outside Ruben Amaro pays for RBIs. Yes, HRs overstate his contribution, but I fail to see how the Pirates will get better by trading a player who created 75 wRC runs, tied for 2nd on the team. The entire trade prospects rely upon the assumption that front offices will only look at HR total, even the most unsophisticated evaluator will see the career .235 average and 186 Ks this year gain some insight on the quality of hitter Alvarez is.

  • leadoff

    IMO, Pedro is the most valuable player on the Pirates team and the one that will make the most money aside from Cole in the future and the most difficult to replace mainly because the Pirates don’t have a replacement. Pedro is still in the development stages, when he leaves the Pirates a lot of the numbers that are low now will be much higher and the 20mil some think he will get is actually IMO a low number for what he will get. I think Pedro is a Prince Fielder type player and I don’t care about the numbers right now, Pedro is not 29 or 30 yet, see me when he is and then we can talk numbers.
    It would be interesting if Huntington were told by Nutting you have to part with Pedro or Cutch right now, who does he part with? I know for a fact Huntington thinks Cutch is the best player on the team right now, I think Cutch is very good and very valuable, but I probably go with the guy that is the hardest to replace.

    • CalipariFan506

      I don’t see why Alvarez is so difficult to replace. IMO Walker could put up the same WAR at 3B as Alvarez does immediately.

      • buster09

        Calipari : And your replacement at 2nd base for Walker then would be ? All you are doing is moving pieces around like the deck chairs on a cruise liner. To what end is sure difficult to see.

    • jaygray007

      I dunno, Leadoff. the MVP-caliber CF who is already signed long term is tough to deal…

      If you had to choose, and the returns were similar, i think you trade Pedro, then later trade for an appropriately talented 3b because similarly talented 3b actually exist (with less power but other skills to make up for it)….

      He’s not irreplacable. He’s just doesnt have a replacement on the current roster.

      I mean… if we traded cutch for… i dunno…. the Rangers’ top 5 prospects plus Profar, then we can talk. But come on. Don’t confuse “without a current replacement” with “irreplacable.”

      Cutch is irreplacable in that there are zero CF in the game as good as him. Pedro is just without a current replacement on this team. But he is not the best MLB 3b like Cutch and CF.

      • leadoff

        I not only don’t think Cutch is the best CF in baseball, I don’t even think he is the best CF on the team and with Meadows on the way plus Polanco, it is hard to imagine Cutch as irreplaceable.

  • Lino Donoso

    It appears that commenters are not all that enamored with Pedro. Allow me to join the club. Without having scrutinized the advanced metrics, I believe that characterizing Pedro as OK defensively and offensively, with definite holes in his game, e.g., against left-handers and with runners in scoring position would be fair enough. I must admit, the business surrounding his drafting and initial signing left a bad taste in my mouth. It hasn’t gone away. Scott Boras is determined to squeeze every last dollar out of the clubs for his clients? Fine. Let’s us treat it as a business also. We can assume we’re not going to be able to sign Pedro for the kind of dollars Boras will be demanding, so let’s look to trade him at the most advantageous moment for us. I’ve always liked David Wright and Chase Headley, to name just two, better anyway. Our moment for high draft choices most probably has passed, so we’re looking at trades. Why not try to ID a potential future contributor in another organization, as some have mentioned above, and spend what we have to in prospects to get that prospect. It’s been done before, by the Mets, with Ray Knight and Howard Johnson to name just two instances.

    • buster09

      I always have liked Adrian Beltre and Evan Longoria myself. So how do you propose getting one of those type guys in here Lino. Just remember this : this isn’t the 1970s or ’80′s,so the deals like you mentioned don’t happen easily these days.

  • AlvarezRiverBall

    The Pirates don’t need to resign their homegrown players at age 30 just for the sake of loyalty or not to shake up the roster. The Phillies took this approach with Howard, Rollins and Utley and look how their production has seriously dropped post age 32 while making monster bucks. Try to resign Pedro and buy out two years of free agency until he’s 32 or let him walk. Same with Cutch. The days of the old players leading the way to the World Series are over thanks to PED shakedowns. Milk these guys for their young talent and then let someone else overpay them hoping for the production they gave the Pirates.