No Option B For Pedro Alvarez…Unless You Consider the Trade Market

There is no question about Pedro Alvarez’s long-term role in Pittsburgh — he basically has none with Josh Bell waiting in the wings in Altoona. Alvarez is only under team control through the 2016 season, and Bell could be in the majors by the middle of next season.

But the Pirates might not be able to wait that long. Alvarez is currently hitting for a .230/.298/.419 line in 295 plate appearances with the Pirates. His transition to first base has been poor, providing no defensive value. He’s striking out a career low 24.4% of the time, and his walks are decent at 8.5%, but his power has also dropped from his best years in 2012-13, going from the .240 ISO range to .189.

In short, Alvarez is hitting for power, but not enough power to justify the lack of numbers everywhere else, and that means his bat isn’t justifying the poor defense at first. He currently has a -0.4 WAR at first base, meaning the Pirates could upgrade over him right now with a replacement level player.

To top that all off, Alvarez is making $5.75 M in arbitration, and is eligible for one more year. He’s almost certainly due a raise, since the arbitration process considers a player’s entire career and heavily favors home runs. It’s no wonder why he won his arbitration hearing this year, after coming off a replacement level season last year at third base.

For this reason, I wouldn’t expect Alvarez to be around in 2016. It would be foolish to pay a guy $6 M or more for replacement level production, and that’s what you can expect out of Alvarez going forward.

But forget about 2016. What about the current season? Clint Hurdle said yesterday that they have no changes planned for Alvarez, noting that there currently isn’t a Plan B. That’s true to a certain extent. The best internal option right now is Travis Ishikawa, who is replacement level at best, and doesn’t offer much of an upgrade over Alvarez. Sure, the Pirates would be paying much less money for Ishikawa, but they’ve already committed to paying Alvarez for this season, so his 2015 cost is sunk and shouldn’t be a factor in the decision.

There are no options in Triple-A, and Josh Bell just isn’t ready for the majors yet, as he is further behind Alvarez in his transition to first base, and is working on his swing from the right side. So that means there really isn’t a Plan B at first base in the system. But what about outside of the system?

Someone like Adam Lind would make a lot of sense for the Pirates. They haven’t been connected to him, and there’s no word that they’re even looking at trading for a first baseman. But Lind is a guy who is under team control through the 2016 season, with an $8 M option next year. He’s been worth at least 1.5 WAR in each of the last three seasons, and is currently putting up a 2.1 WAR with the Brewers.

Lind represents the type of player who would be the perfect bridge to Josh Bell — under team control through the 2016 season, more productive than what the Pirates have right now, and very affordable to the Pirates. This type of player (it doesn’t have to be Lind, but I haven’t seen many other examples on the market) would not only upgrade over Alvarez this year, but wouldn’t be blocking Bell in the future.

Prior to the season, Lind was traded to Milwaukee for Marco Estrada, who is a fourth or fifth starter that had one year of control remaining, and averaged a 2.5 WAR in 2012-13. That’s not a big price, but Lind didn’t command much at the time. Looking at his trade value, and basing it off a 1.5 WAR, he would have been worth $2.9 M in value. Estrada would have been worth anywhere between $2.3 M and $5.3 M as a 1-1.5 WAR pitcher.

Lind’s performance this year, plus the natural inflation of prices at the trade deadline, probably means he’s going to carry more value. Let’s say he’s worth 1.5 WAR the final two months of the season, and then a 2.0 WAR in 2016. That would give him an $11 M trade value. And considering he was worth $2.9 M pre-season, and received upwards of $5.3 M in trade value (an 82% increase on his value), then he could be worth as much as $20 M in trade value this year.

Overall, this would cost the Pirates at least one top prospect, and maybe more. My guess is that it would be similar to the package they sent away when they traded for Wandy Rodriguez a few years ago. They’d be dealing some good prospects if they wanted to get a deal done, but no one they’d really miss, especially since they’ve got some trade chips that they could deal. And when you consider that first base is one of the few positions of need at the Major League level this year, then it doesn’t seem like a bad idea to deal away the trade chips they do have, in order to fill one of their few needs for the rest of 2015, and for 2016 until Bell arrives.

  • I think the talk of him being a “good DH” are slowly dying as well. Not too many AL teams are going to have someone who cant play the field at replacement level AND needs to have a platoon partner at DH.
    I imagine next year he will be AAA depth for a good team that hopes to “fix him” in the minors (in this instance could be an NL team) or he could be that ugly DH for a bad team…who they live with his results as they are rebuilding.

  • Tim,
    What about some first basemen in AAA who are banging on the Major League door, but are currently being blocked by the already-established guy? Anyone come to mind …. kind of like Alen Hanson here?
    The team you’re dealing with may want to deal the Major League guy and keep the prospect. I think the Pirates would deal Walker before Hanson, especially if they were out of the race.

  • If they DFA him, do you think anyone would claim him?

  • Call me crazy but Ryan Howard would be a positive defensive upgrade and a slight offensive upgrade. Give them a C prospect and eat the salary or a C and B and have them take more.

    • While people are dreaming about getting Jose Abreu from the White Sox, why not Adam LaRoche? Yes, he’s old, yes he’s expensive. But we’re in a pennant race. LaRoche’s stats suck this year, but IMO that’s partly because he stinks as a DH. He’s a better batter when he’s playing 1b.

      I think Sox would love to get rid of that contract and would take Rule 5 guys. And if that means we have an overpaid stiff at 1b next year, so be it.

      If Bucs aren’t serious going to play for Lind (and the Brewers would abuse us or StL, IMO) then LaRoche looks better than most other options.

      • He has just been so terribly bad this year…At least has some positive value and a better OBP than Pedro. IF he goes on one of his second half tears that takes him to the mid-200’s and 20 HRs he’d end up being a good pickup, but man looking at his numbers now you just want to run the other way.

        • But if you subscribe to the theory that some guys are better than others at DH, then LaRoche’s .253/.831 as a 1b start looking pretty good. And I think the Sox would take Pedro and the savings in a heartbeat.

  • Looks like we also might be in need of a SS…Jordy just went down HARD on a terrible slide by Gomez. Our DEPTH is going to start becoming an issue real soon…Rodriguez to 3B and Kang to SS. If this is a long(er) term injury…you’d have to imagine that Hanson could get the call.

  • Craig’s AAA #s do seem to indicate he is getting things together again, while I don’t think he’s there yet he may be a bargain right now.

  • Look folks, the pirates don’t really need a lot of production from first (it would be nice though) they need a guy who won’t hurt the team.

  • Pedro still is the best on this team unless you do something dramatic like walker to first and Hanson up… which isn’t the way NH operates.

    • Outside of a trade this might be the best internal possibility of an upgrade. Or Hanson could be tried at SS moving Kang back to 3B until Harrison is healthy.

  • Every year it’s the same thing, trade pedro he sucks. Then he hits a two week hot streak and it’s “all hands on deck” and “el torro strikes again” followed by crickets. Enough already! Get somebody in the burgh yesterday to replace pedro!

  • Wonder if Allen Craig would be a buy very low option…gamble on him rebounding back in the NL?

    • Craig is terrible. Period.

    • I agree that Craig is the best low buy option and he’s clutch!

      • I mean I am not saying he’d blow us away…but I mean what could he cost? Steven Brault and that is if money is coming back our way? He’s right handed and has a good past history in the NL Central and the World Series.

      • That’s why the Red Sox sent him down. They didn’t want a ” clutch ” guy in the lineup I guess.

    • He had a Lisfranc injury, it ends careers in high impact sports. 2011-13 Allen Craig isn’t coming back.

      • Is a version that is better than Pedro Alvarez coming back? Haha. That’s the question.

        • He was out-righted off the 40 man, so I’d go with no.

          • Guess he’s not even better than this year’s Mike Napoli, which is pretty bad. I would think he might be better than Travis Ishikawa….

            • Cardinal churn out these non-toolsy, under-powered college hitters. They debut late, have relatively short prime years. Craig is 30 add in a debilitating foot injury and pitchers pounding the zone with fastball and I think Craig is done.

            • Wrong.

  • If the pirates wanted to trade for lind you not only have to factor in the cost of the trade you also have to factor in the additional cost of trading with a division rival. For that reason I don’t see the pirates being in the running even if they wanted lind. Parmalee would be an upgrade (not much) over pedro and is blocked by mauer so is a much cheaper easier to get option.

    • Parmelee as an upgrade over Pedro? I don’t know about that……his .259 OBP?

      • Better defence about the same bat(minus the power)so yeah I would say he would be an upgrade over pedro. Heck, we all know it would not take much to upgrade over pedro.

  • According to Kevin Creagh we have no good prospects trade. And we are all dumb for paying 2.99 a month to know how a 21st round pick will be in 5 years.

    • Kevin IS right that we do not have many good prospects right now to trade. We have no one in AAA besides Hanson. We are depleted by injuries. Tallion, isn’t really a possibility unless you sell low on him due to injury. Neither is Kingham. IF we are wanting an average (or better) starting 1B don’t you think we’ll need more than prospects ranked in the teens-through-twenties who are in A-Ball?

      The part about us being stupid to pay 2.99 is whatever…

      • I understand the injurys have really hurt us. I feel maybe depth wise more so than trade wise. But I suppose if u had say kingham and tallion healthy that could open up trading other pitching that we now have to hold on to. It was the basic trashing of the other prospects that bothered me. Calling Reese mcquire a flop because of his bat but no mention of his defense. Saying because josh bells power isn’t showing yet he isnt going to make it. The article just kind of rubbed me the wrong way

        • Well, yeah, Kevin Creagh is a mental midget when it comes to his prospect analysis and apparently has a hard-on for Tim because Tim’s site is successful and whatnot.

          But the injuries have hurt us a lot more than just depth. Kingham and Taillon were both AAA players, major-league ready players. Since clubs seem to be much more interested in major league ready players we lost the opportunity to trade them, but also lost the opportunity to trade someone like Jeff Locke because we do not have anything behind him. (Remember that Kelly and Craig got the Cardinals John Lackey last year). The lack of other advanced options in AAA also limits what we can trade off our major league roster. Sure, players like McGuire and Meadows are great…but they’re A+ players. Like Huntington has said before…teams are not so patient any more, they want more immediate returns (which makes sense because of the attrition rates of prospects).

    • Seriously, who or what the hell is a Kevin Creagh ?

      • He used to write for this site.

        • I read that, and it is readily apparent to me that he has never seen any of those players actually play….ever !

          • That doesn’t make him wrong about the point of it hurting the pirates at the deadline this year…

            • That’s not the point. You know that, I know that, and anyone who pays attention knows that. But what he is saying about the system and no decent prospects is total BS ! He was either lying or being totally disingenuis, and why The Fan or any other media outlet would give him any time is beyond me.

              • It helps when you used to write for Pirates Prospects and used that to get on the radio in the first place. It seems he has a bit of a grudge towards the site now, despite still benefitting from his time here.

          • When you get past the semantics and snide comment, there are some pertinent points. You have to mash to be a high value 1B prospect, McGuire hasn’t shown any power to this point, injuries have hit pitching prospect hard, and when you have the best farm system in baseball there is only one way to go.

            The conclusion was; The Pirates can make a play for any player they want on the market. They could get Cueto, Hamels, Chapman, or whatever high value target comes on line. But they may have to overpay just a touch more in 2015’s midseason than they would have in the offseason leading up to it.

            Not really anything provocative, but hey it is the internet lets get all hot and bothered.

            • I’ve talked to zero scouts who have the same concerns about Meadows and McGuire as the concerns brought up in that article. It’s surface level analysis, based on zero time spent watching the player, and zero conversations with scouts about the potential upside of those players. It also doesn’t consider that these two are two of the youngest players in the FSL, and that the FSL is an extreme pitcher’s league that suppresses power.

              • I ignored the projections and negative framing, it was fairly apparent that was the point of the article, complaining about the lack of power from a 20 year old highly rated defensive catching prospect?

                A bit of post hoc bias, listing Marte as an assured high impact prospect, ignoring the questions about whether he would make enough contact. Marte didn’t make a top 100 list until after his AA season, that could easily be Harold Ramirez next year.

                The internet lives on controversy and outrage, I thought it seemed like the title anchored a lot peoples reading of it. I only have so much outrage.

              • His prospect analysis was superficial and unimpressive. His overarching point about the injuries hurting our current prospect assortment for trade deadline improvements seems fairly accurate.

    • Consider our top 15 prospects:
      1. Tyler Glasnow, isn’t going anywhere
      2. Jamison Taillon, injured
      3. Austin Meadows, High A-Ball
      4. Josh Bell, AA…only 1B prospect in the system
      5. Alen Hanson, AAA and probably our best trade candidate
      6. Reese McGuire, High A-Ball
      7. Nick Kingham, injured
      8. Elias Diaz, AAA and probably has some value
      9. Harold Ramirez, High A-Ball
      10. Cole Tucker, Low A-Ball
      11. Kevin Newman, Short Season
      12. Ke’Bryan Hayes, Gulf Coast League
      13. Mitch Keller, injured
      14. Clay Holmes, High A-Ball
      15. Stephen Tarpley, High A-Ball

      So really we have a bunch of High-A ball players. Consider that Stephen Tarpley and Steven Brault were traded earlier this year for Travis Snider (that is our current 15th and 25th ranked prospects). We really do not have a lot to trade.

      • Trading from the major league squad really doesn’t help much either being that there really isnt anyone in AAA that’s going to come help this team maybe other than Hansen.

        • That is exactly right. Maybe you get real ballsy and trade Cervelli and bring up Diaz? Other than that…this article is correct about he injuries really setting us back for the deadline.

      • They got Marlon Byrd for Dilson Herrera, who was in low-A at the time.

        • They got Marlon Byrd two years ago (before the new trend of “get MLB ready talent” went full blast) and they got him for Dilson Herrera and Vic Black who at least was a dominant AAA reliever (something we do not even have comparatively this year).

  • Addition by subtraction, send PA to the AL, if possible. Or package him with Locke and one of the minor league pitchers for Lind..

    • That comment qualifies you for the dumbest one of the day…..so far. That’s nothing new though.

      • Mercer can't hit RHP
        July 19, 2015 5:58 pm

        Leo knows “dumb”. It’s resided in him for the better part of 70 years.

  • Id trade Pedro for a six pack of beer and it doesn’t even need to be cold.

  • Is there any way, any way at all, that we could pull Jose Abreu from the Chicago White Sox? He’s young and signed long-term (through 2019) but has a relatively inexpensive contract. He is owed the following:
    2016: $10M
    2017: $10.5M
    2018: $11.5M
    2019: $12M
    Seeing that we’d likely be paying Pedro $7+M for next year…is $3M more really all that much more money considering a 3+WAR swing that Abreu would likely bring?

    • I’m going to go out on a limb and say the White Sox realize they have a very good, young, cheap player tied up through his prime.

      Sure, he could probably be pried away…but I’m terrified to wonder at what cost. I’m guessing the talks would begin with Glasnow and Bell. After that, I’d expect, at least, one more painful name to be added to the list.

      • I agree that I do not think the White Sox will trade him…especially with his age, success, and contract. He would be a player I would be greatly interested in. Not for Glasnow, but every other prospect would be wide-open for me.

      • I think Glasnow, Polanco, Bell, Hanson, and McGuire is what it would take. Still interested?

      • remember the trade value Tim ran for Stanton last year- see the returns it was going to take to get him

  • BJointBucs24
    July 19, 2015 11:24 am

    Lind is obviously an upgrade over pedro, but they would still need somebody to play first and hit well against left handed pitching. Rodriguez is just a backup utility man (which is perfectly fine), but they have no option against left handers at first base.

  • Answer me this someone who watches Altoona more than I do (only the couple of times I see them on milb.tv)…is Josh Bell really THAT bad that he would be worse defensively than a 15 error Pedro Alvarez?! Not that I am saying he should get promoted from AA to MLB…I am just asking if it really is THAT bad. Because Pedro is THAT bad.

    • No, and his defensive numbers, although moving from the OF to the IF are better than Pedro’s who has been an infielder for at least the past 6 years as a professional and then for 3 years of college at Vanderbilt. He should be in the Top 15 as a defensive 1B, but instead has 15 E’s while the next worst qualified 1B has 6 E’s. That is pitiful.

      And we keep hearing about Bell’s AB’s from the Right Side – he looks bad/awkward,etc. They do not pay on looks, they pay on results. Results such as .302 in 2013 against LHP’s at Lo A, .320 against LHP’s at Hi A in 2014 and .295 against LHP’s in AA in 2014. I can only assume that he is batting RH against those LHP’s, but who cares? It is the numbers that mean something.

      • The defensive side was, specifically, what I was interested in…and, yes, I agree I just do not see how he could be any worse than Pedro has been. Pedro was not a bad fielder at Vanderbilt and wasn’t a bad fielder in Pittsburgh even, besides the throws, but now he’s completely forgotten how to field and as a life-long infielder that is mind boggling. No way can Bell be any worse than the worst defensive 1B in baseball…potentially the worst defensive baseball in years.

        About his bat…I believe what we’ve been hearing is that from the right side he’d hit for OK average, but not for power. I think, right now, we’d take a guy who could swing the bat and provide decent, professional at bats. Again, I am NOT saying that Bell should be promoted from AA straight to MLB or that he’s ready…I just do not know how much worse he could be offensively or defensively than Pedro.

        • Even if Bell WOULD be an improvement at MLB level and the FO would consider such a thing (they wouldn’t), a move like that would, at best, decelerate, and at worst, ruin, a player’s development. If you want a slightly better Pedro, go for it.

      • Dream on em jay.

      • because offensive numbers mean jack in minors, especially batting average

    • Yes Jared, Bell is NOT as good defensively as Alvarez is right now. He is awkward with a weird throwing motion, but he just needs to continue working at it. But NOT in a pennant race in MLB.

      • Like I said, I was not asking because I thought he should be up…I just wondered if he was, possibly, as bad as Pedro at 1B.

    • Pedro can at least field. That has never really been an issue … Well except for chasing balls hit to Walker and catching those difficult pick off attempts

    • ya know what jared- that is a fair question. My opinion is that Bell, probably from a net perspective, wouldn’t be much worse or better from an overall perspective.The problem is, I believe, and i’d speak for the Pirates here as well, that a move to bring him up right now would be damaging to his development, and that is the main reason why you wouldn’t see him here. They need someone better, no reason to think Bell would be better, so why dump Alvarez now. We need a shortstop, to hell with first base right now.

  • Pedro’s defense is a disaster but I have felt like he has been a 7-10 day tear away for the last 6 weeks from turning it into a nice offensive season…but that’s Pedro…he has always been just flashes.Then again, I have been in the camp against Pedro for a long time so if they traded him today I couldn’t be happier. If he does stay the rest of the year all we can hope for is a little better defense (For him that is not getting past 20 errors which he could do by Sept) and stay about the same offensively. Gross.

    • Calls for a trade to improve first base are rational…..nothing like the panic that caused the Bucs to dump Grilli. Pedro has shown that he can’t be reliable in the field or at the plate. Responsibility shifts from him to those who continue to expect him to do something that he can’t. I believe that Hurdle has made his views known and our GM has also come to the realization that improvement is necessary and possible. We can’t even protect all our legitimate prospects in the Rule 5 draft.

  • Honestly, can anyone really see Pedro Alvarez staying on the team after what Clint Hurdle said? Without saying the exact words he basically said, “I can’t tell you we need to move Pedro because right now he’s still on my team and I need him to produce as much as he possibly can until he’s not on this team any more.” After that…can we really see the Pirates continuing to put Pedro Alvarez out there every night?

  • Make it so NH. Harold Ramirez and Adrian Sampson? Might as well toss Pedro back in the deal, since he’d be superflous.

  • I would love Adam Lind for this team. He was the guy I really wanted when we were looking for a 1B previous to trading for Ike Davis. Last time I checked he was right behind Andrew McCutchen this year in OPS amongst the league leaders. Add another almost .900 OPS bat to this lineup while subtracting double-digit errors…I think you get 2 full wins out of him over Alvarez the rest of the way. Those two wins could be mighty important in this race for the Central title.

    • The problem is, Mozeliak and Matheny would love to see him in St. Louis, not Pittsburgh.

      • They have more ready/available assets right now than we do and if they got Lind’s production at 1B we would be in BIG, BIG trouble.

  • I’ve been in Pedro’s corner, but I’m starting to wonder why. Probably best for him and Pirates if he’s traded to AL team to DH.

    • Because you really hoped on the power returning? Which it honestly might after he leaves Pittsburgh and another team gets him out of this “hit the ball to all fields” mindset. Sure…he’ll only hit .225, but he’ll hit 30-40 homers again there.

      • With the shift they employ against him, unless you want 30 homers and a batting average around the mendoza line, he HAS to hit to all fields.

        • As a DH on an AL team…I imagine he’d be Adam Dunn of the Chicago White Sox days.

          • Adam Dunn knew the strike zone.

            • That is true. I will give you that. You don’t think the Athletics would take Alvarez to DH for a rental like Ben Zobrist?

              • I don’t. Alvarez isn’t worth his salary on the open market right now – the positional adjustment from 1B to DH is -1/2 win, so on offense he would still be basically a replacement level guy. And with arbitration coming this winter, whoever takes him in would be a fool not to non-tender him anyway, which means his only value is what he adds or subtracts over the next 2.5 months.

                The Pirates would likely have to sweeten the pot with prospects or money to offload him, and I don’t see this FO doing that when they could just as easily keep him on the bench as a LH PH and non-tender him in the offseason.

              • See what it takes to get Adam Lind and then give it to them?
                Try and get Aramis Ramirez, as well.
                Again, give whatever it takes; maybe the Brewers liked what they saw of Locke, so package him with some minor leaguers and deal. Give up a solid Class A or AA pitcher. Pretend we do have a good minor league system and unload some of those guys.
                I like Sean Rodriguez, but what’s he really worth?

    • He doesn’t hit enough to play 1B, why would a team want a platoon DH? I guess you can live with a shorter bench in the AL, but even taking his peak production factoring in the DH penalty, he isn’t going to be a valuable player.

      • I think there is a team out there in the NL who would dream on his power for a hit-only position like DH.

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