First Pitch: Can the Pirates Sell High on Pedro Alvarez This Off-Season?

Pedro Alvarez is quietly having a good offensive season. After hitting his 22nd home run of the season tonight, Alvarez has a .770 OPS, which ties his 2013 mark, and falls just behind his 2010 and 2012 totals. The results this time around are a bit different than the 2012-13 seasons, even though they lead to the same result.

Alvarez struck out about 30% of the time in his first four seasons, before dropping that to 25.4% last year, and seeing a slight increase to 26.6% this year. He doesn’t have as many home runs in counting numbers, but his 17.0 AB/HR ratio is in line with 2012, when he hit 30 homers, and just behind 2013, when he hit 36 homers. The key difference this year is that he’s not getting everyday playing time, which lowers his counting totals. But despite the limited playing time, he is seeing a lot of doubles, with his current mark of 17 falling eight shy of his career high, and five shy of his 2013 totals, which came in his best year for power.

Despite all of this, Alvarez remains a streaky hitter. It was only a little over a month ago that Pirates were exploring an upgrade at first base, when Alvarez was hitting for a .744 OPS on the season. He had an .852 OPS in August, with six home runs, and now he’s suddenly looking like the hitter he was a few years ago, and it’s looking like he’s the guy for the job.

In the last month, I’ve also noticed a trend with how Alvarez is perceived. Around the trade deadline, Pirates fans wanted him gone for a bag of balls. By the middle of the month, I made a comment about how he might end up building some trade value if he continued what he was doing in August. The reaction? A lot of comments about how you can’t trade him, and that he’d make a perfect stopgap until Josh Bell arrives.

This reaction is probably stronger now that Alvarez has carried his hot month into September. And that’s really the best indicator that Alvarez is approaching a sell-high situation. You never want to see a guy leaving when he’s a sell-high candidate, mostly because he’s going to be at his top value. At that point, you start to dream about whether he can keep this up, or possibly get better.

That’s what happened last year with Travis Snider. He had a strong second half, which didn’t match up with his career, but gave some hope that he was finally breaking through as a starter. The end result was that he struggled and regressed back to a bench player, although the risk was that he might have actually found lasting success which would have made that trade look a lot worse.

Alvarez is a bit of a different situation. His numbers this year are in line with his career. If you look at the last four seasons, this year doesn’t really look like an outlier. In fact, his 2014 season is the year that looks like an outlier. The downside to this is that he’s still a streaky hitter, and doesn’t have any defensive value at first base, making him a replacement-level player. But if teams are willing to pay for the offense, then his numbers this year might give him some value.

The situation is a bit complicated for the Pirates. They need a first baseman for at least the first half of the season in 2016. The current version of Alvarez would be great during that time, with the hope that he has a prolonged hot streak during the first half. Then again, they could go with Michael Morse and try to deal Alvarez away. The risk would be assuming that Morse can bounce back to his 2014 success, while hoping Alvarez doesn’t find the big breakout elsewhere. There’s also the popular idea of making Neil Walker the first baseman, although Alvarez has better offense, there’s no guarantee Walker would have better defense to make up for that offense, and Walker projects to cost $10 M or more through arbitration, which would be well beyond what he would be worth at the position.

The big question is whether Alvarez would have any value with a strong finish to the year. I’d think he would. It might not be huge value, but it might be enough to get a Snider-like return. The Pirates could then roll the dice with Morse for half a season until Bell arrives. But if Alvarez doesn’t have any value, then it wouldn’t make much sense to deal him for nothing, when he could give them a second option at first base until Bell arrives, allowing the Pirates to play the hot hand for when Alvarez runs into one of his slumps.

**Prospect Watch: Glasnow Walks Five in Shortest Career Outing. Not a good start for Glasnow, who I wrote about last night, saying that he’s not ready for the majors.

**Pirates Place Casey Sadler on the 60-Day DL to Make Room For Call-Ups. Almost all of the expected moves, with Pedro Florimon expected to join the group tomorrow.

**Pirates Sending Seven to Arizona Fall League, Including McGuire and Meadows. There’s a good class going to the AFL, and I’m hoping to cover them live this off-season.

**Garcia and Suchy Take Home SAL Honors, Diaz Named Top IL Catcher. Yeudy Garcia finishes his breakout year with a few SAL honors, including top pitcher.

**Morning Report: Tyler Glasnow, Yeudy Garcia and Some Baseball History. A very interesting history note from John Dreker.

  • BuccosFanStuckinMD
    September 2, 2015 8:32 pm

    I’m ready for the Pirates to move on from Pedro – with better defense in the infield, including first base, the Pirates could be in first place. If he hit 30+ HRs, drove in 100+ runs, and hit at least .260, you could tolerate some of the errors and strikeouts. But, he doesn’t bring any of that to the table either.

    2016 is time for Bell. If he’s not ready in the Spring, we still could platoon Lambo with someone. The ideal short-term situation would be Walker moving to first base, but i doubt that happens.

    For the Pirates to “sell high” on Pedro, they needed to trade him after the 2013 season – his value was at it’s peak. That ship has sailed.

    • I hate to show my age so much…but Pedro reminds me of Rob Deer…and, if you look at their numbers…it’s not much of a stretch to see the similarities.

      It would be easy to sell high on him if he were making $2M…as he’ll be making, at least, triple that next season…I don’t see the Pirates getting much from him.

      Getting a single “B” for him in the off-season, I think, would be a win.

      • BuccosFanStuckinMD
        September 2, 2015 9:47 pm

        I would take a young prospect with some upside for him, plus maybe some International signing money. I agree, the Pirates are not going to get much for him and his market is really limited to AL teams in need of a DH. If you keep him, you effectively block Bell for another season. Bell is ready – he’s 23 now? He’s already better defensively than Pedro – which I know isn’t saying much..

        • I cold envision a scenario where Pedro being kept doesnt really “block” Bell. He’d still potentially arrive and get decent playing time.

          I dont think the team is seriously wanting Bell to take over and play full time midway into next year.

    • Ive been pulling for Lambo and Allie but have to admit neither is major league material.
      As for Pedro, I hope he finds a good home in the AL.

  • If the Bucs can get two “B”‘s for him, they’ve fleeced someone.

    If they can get a Snider-like return, I’m more than happy to roll the dice with Morse/? until mid-June. Heck, with Alvarez’s 10 HR’s and 34 RBI through the first three months of 2015, it’s not like going without him would be like losing Miggy.

  • Sign the Korean – and trade Pedro. I am a huge Pedro fan – but he deserves a chance to get away from all the crap Pirate fans have inflicted on him. Send him to Toronto to DH and let him and Joey Bats and Encarcion hit 150 HRs each year – when the Pirates whole starting lineup struggles to get to 125.

    • Korean might cost about 3 times what Pedro does, and his K issues seem to hint at him being far more of a 2 outcome type than Kang.

  • The NL will be going to the DH sooner or later so the Bucs should hang onto the big bull.

  • From a payroll flexibility and long-term asset management standpoint, I think dealing both Walker and Alvarez this offseason is the right move. However, the replacement for Walker is Harrison, and the replacement for Alvarez is Morse. That’s an awful lot of righties our lineup would have every single night.

    However, Alvarez would have value as a DH, because he genuinely can hit. He’s not consistent, but the numbers at the end of the season are always solid, and he’s a perpetual instant-offense, big strike threat. He also has the upside, having displayed in the past excellent defensive tools, to find value again on the defensive side of the ball, which would make him even more useful.

    The Pirates, though, not having the option to use him as a DH, have less opportunity to just eat the failure to reach his defensive upside. They have to deal with the errors, and that’s tough.

    I trust Morse. He’s looked solid since coming over, and this season is an outlier in an otherwise solid offensive career.

    On Walker, he’s a clearly better hitter than Harrison, but Harrison’s defense and baserunning close the gap a bit in terms of total value, and Walker’s skill set would be very tempting to any team looking for a second baseman. We could get a nice return for him, and if we can get that return, we probably should, especially with solid internal options to mitigate the loss.

    But having Polanco as the only lefty in the lineup gives me pause. There’s just not enough balance to an all-righty lineup. Sure, if they all hit, it’ll be fine, but they’ll be susceptible to right-handed sinkerballers if they don’t have any lefties to break things up.

    It’s a tough conundrum.

    • A (good) problem with your logic: where exactly is the club going to use all that new-found payroll flexibility?

      Certainly not in the outfield. Certainly not in the bullpen. Certainly not behind the plate. Rotation will need at least one addition, but they’ll also have $8.5m from Burnett coming off the books.

      To my eye, that payroll flexibility would best be served going straight back into the position that created it in the first place. And at that point, you may very well be stuck shuffling deck chairs.

      • The downside of that is first basemen are so seldom available in free agency. However, this would give us the opportunity to either 1) sign or trade for a higher-tier starting pitcher to replace Burnett than we typically do, 2) make a trade in which we take on salary for a first baseman, or 3) make a trade or signing for a left-hand hitting upgrade at shortstop, or of course, some combination of those.

        I’m fine with Harrison at second, honestly. He can slot in just about anywhere in the lineup, hits for average and runs the bases well. And I’m fine with Morse at first, too. But man, it’d be nice to have left-handed options somewhere.

        I also expect them to deal Melancon, so they might want to add a middle relief arm so Watson can slot in as the new closer without sacrificing too much depth.

        And then, of course, there’s the question of the returns on these trades, which may include Major League pieces.

        • It’s admittedly a tough conversation to have right now with only ballpark payroll estimates, but shedding Burnett, Walker, Alvarez, and Melancon PLUS most of the salary they took on at the deadline looks to be something like $30m. That’s a sh*t-ton for so few needs.

          I definitely like going with a (relatively) higher end starting pitcher on a shorter term deal, similar to what they did with Liriano. And you’re right, it also matters what they can get back in those trades.

          Still, something about losing that many relatively key pieces from a 90+ win club when you really don’t have to scares me, personally. Not quite a Billy Beane-style tear down, but enough to get me puckered. I’m a baby, though, and did you know Neil Walker was from Pittsburgh? 😉

          • Assuming the OF coming out of ST is the big three plus two rookies, the IF is Kang/Mercer/Hanson/Morse with Harrison floating, catching is Cervelli and Diaz, starters are Cole, Liriano, Locke and Morton and the pen stalwarts that stick are Watson, Caminero, Hughes and Scahill, you’re basically correct. That payroll would be about $68 mill, so $30 mill to spend more or less.

            Needs would be:
            1 starting pitcher, at least a #3 guy, preferably higher
            1 back end bullpen guy for 7th/8th, possibly 9th if Watson falter
            2 middle relievers, one of whom is a swingman
            1 corner IF, LHB preferred, decent fielding at 1b.

            $30 million will get you all that plus leave plenty of change.

            Add in that there are two, possibly three, SPs coming up after the Super Two deadline. Plus a 1b/OF around the same time. And whichever of Garcia/Broxton doesn’t come north with team should be ready by then.

            So you’re looking at either flipping the guy acquired during the offseason or trading one of Morton/Locke before the deadline. Additionally you’d have the flexibility to think about trading for a stud SS (not going to mention who gets traded to stay on topic).

            It’s going to be a young team – only four guys over 30 on Opening Day. Adding some veteranosity wouldn’t be a bad play.

    • I don’t think that they will move Walker. JHAY is most valuable as a super utility player seeing regular AB down in the ord er. Alen Hanson won’t be ready at the start of the season, so Walker stays.

      They may keep Pedro and Morse for a Season to give Bell another year in AAA to develop power.

  • The only good thing about Pedro is he hits HR in STL. He needs to be a DH in the AL. His defense has cost us at least 5-8 games this year. His bat has won us 4, no one fears him anymore.

    • It SEEMS like his defense has cost us, but actually it has not. A friend challenged me to find a single game that Pedro has lost us with his defense. I looked through all the box scores this year of the 1 and 2 run losses and could not find a single one. They DO manage to win… spite of his atrocious defense.

      • This is absolutely the wrong way to determine how many ‘games’ Alvarez lost us. He’s cost us ‘runs’, which in the end, accumulate to ‘wins’. His defense, I assure you, has cost us more than any other 1B, at least by the metrics.

        • Errors and defensive metrics compiled over a long period of time and for all of MLB provide a formula for determining “losses” from runs allowed due to poor fielding.

          That same formula may not stand up under scrutiny for a single player in a single season as far as ascribing actual “losses”. So if gwbicster did the research and found the Bucs won most of the games where Pedro committed an error, he’d be correct.

          However, if the Bucs were to trade Pedro and the buyer cited the negative defensive metrics as a reason to offer a below market price, then you’d be correct. Because in that case Pedro would be being measured against his peers across the league.

    • That isn’t the only good thing about Pedro – but moving on…

      Perception does not equal reality…

      There is a stat for this – it is called Defensive Runs Saved [DRS}
      Pedro is the worst Pirate at -14…

      He is not the worst overall fielder in baseball though – that honor goes to Hanley Ramirez who butchers left field for the Red Sox and is a -19

      Cervelli is a -7 [yes he is a good framer – but he is giving up a lot of steals and passed balls]
      Cutch a -6
      Walker a -5
      Ramirez a -2
      for the bucs.

      • -7 still puts Cervelli 15th, so average, overall to his spot.

        And his pitchers do him no service at holding runners. No catcher would look good, and his arm was already closer to average than elite before this year.

  • Trade Alvarez while he has some value. Do not let him become a free agent. He WILL walk. I like Walker, but he is becoming overpriced. Trade him as well. See if Hansen can take the job, with Harrison as back up plan. I would not count on Morse however.

  • Living in st Pete I have thought Pedro would be a perfect fit here. They need power and any production at all. A guy like Pedro batting after longoria so longoria sees some pitches to hit for the first time since 2013. At least against righties. Trade him for buddy Borden and call it a day.

  • Anything for Pedro would be great. As far as having him as a bridge to bell I dot see the point. Morse is there and probably ishi plus I’m not so sure bell will be aaa until June. He is looking like he is ahead of that schedule. It just doesn’t make sense to pay him 8-10 mil next season and either regret it or eat part of it. Still, it’s tough to bank on what they have now being good enough. I really think walker needs to get some reps at 1B next spring so he can be the insurance policy.

  • I thought I read somewhere that Pedro’s OPS is actually higher than all but 6 or 7 DH’s. If so, he can be moved somewhere for something more than a bag of balls?

  • It’s tough to ‘sell high’ on a strictly replacement-level player. It’s impossible to ‘sell high’ on a replacement-level player making upwards of $7-8m per year.

    Alvarez has made himself into a non-tender. The Pirates know that; all other teams know that (except perhaps the Phillies, who are stupid, and the D-Backs, who are stupid but already have a 1B).

    Snider, as a 4th OF coming off a decent year, got two pitchers that the Orioles whiffed on their value, but they were not highly-thought of by anyone not named NH. Alvarez isn’t even getting that deal.

    • Agreed. If I remember at the time, Tarpley had been especially disappointing for the O’s. I have to go back and read some of Tims stuff, but I imagine Benedict saw something after the hands off period.

      Whatever they decide to do with Walker, Alvarez, the bullpen raises, Ground Upchuck and Robin, they better get some pitching back first and foremost.

      • Tarpley dropped his arm slot and saw better command in the second half. The Pirates had an affiliate that went up against him during this period. So they probably saw this, saw the second half improvements, and tried to buy low.

    • They definitely bought low on the pitchers, but both showed promise. Tarpley had second half success, and Brault had success but was just old for his league. It turned out that this didn’t matter, as he continued pitching well moving up the levels. And Tarpley carried over his success, which came after a mechanical change.

    • Strictly a replacement level *first baseman*, without leaving room for any improvement at the position.

      As a DH, or even a passable first baseman, he absolutely has positive value. Not a ton, but don’t forget the cost-conscious A’s gave Billy Butler $30m last winter coming off a season much worse than Pedro’s. It only takes one.

      • At DH, though, he doesn’t even get credit for the positional adjustment on his defense. If we all agree that Alvarez is perhaps a ~.730-750 OPS guy, he simply isn’t that attractive as a DH, nor 1B, unless he plays defense like Keith ‘Back and to the Left’ Hernandez. Which, obviously, he doesn’t. I guess you could squint and say he’s closer to a .800 OPS guy, but that seems unlikely, considering he’s never done it over a full season. Plus, OPS undervalues OBP and overvalues SLG, so he’s essentially a mess offensively for 1B/DH, or at least just ‘meh’. Add in his horrid glove, and well, he’s a non-tender guy.

        Hell, Ishi has a slightly less career OPS, plays a MUCH better 1B, and he was cut and given away. Outside of a few teams like you stated, I just don’t see Alvarez bringing back much. And, surely, this smart FO can spend $7-8m better somewhere else and on someone else, in my eyes.

        • But that’s the thing, he’s been so bad at 1B that taking the positional adjustment given to the DH would be a marked improvement on his overall value. Very much agree that this still doesn’t make him some top tier DH option, but it also there’s also simply not *that* much difference between 28 yo Alvarez and 35 yo Adam LaRoche, who got paid $24m for his services just last winter. I think the Pirates have proven they can do better with that money if they spend it on a pitching reclamation, but that simply doesn’t buy you much of anything in free agency anymore.

          The whole OBP/SLG thing gets terribly overstated, by the way. Alvarez has the same exact wRC+, derived from linear weights, as he does OPS+, derived from SLG. Truly nipping at the margins by folks who want to sound smart.

          • I’m not really trying to sound smart; I just think some are pointing to his OPS, due to him hitting dingers, but he’s still getting on base at an extremely infrequent rate – something that gets lost in some circles of conversation.

            At less $, I could see them going Pedro/Morse until Bell is ready. But at $7-8 per? Nah, that’s just too rich for a guy w/ his profile. Opportunity cost even greater.

            • Idk, 7-8 million for a DH is pretty low. Coming off a bad year, Butler gets 10 million per year over 3 years. Pedro could pull 7 million as is.

      • I’d rather have Pedro than Butler – but then I am a Pedro fanboy

    • Take a look at what’s currently out there at the 1B position. If the Bucs were able to get what they got for a couple months of good performance from Snider, imagine what they could get for a hot postseason of Toro. There’s got to be one GM out there who will take this kind of risk, and hopefully Neal can find him.

      • But, that’s my point: The Orioles thought they were giving up essentially nothing; that’s why they did the deal. Perhaps NH can do it again, it I wouldn’t expect something even ‘decent’ of a return for Alvarez, at least on paper.

        • Idk, even at the time it wasnt “nothing”. Guys were a bit of time away from the majors, but they were semi interesting and both LHP.

          If a team were to offer a similar deal for Pedro, id bet PGH does it quickly. Gaining two young arms for a player you dont expect more than replacement level play from is a win.

  • If NH can turn two good months from Travis Snider into Brault and Tarpley and getting Snider back for free in August, nothing he manages to get for Alvarez will surprise me.

  • Alvarez has value in the most literal sense, as in some team will surely covet truly elite power, but based on precedent I’m still not sure the Pirates could successfully deal him.

    As a player heading into his last year of arbitration projected to make (I’m assuming) something north of $7m, he’s also a likely non-tender candidate by a team like the Pirates. That, to me, is the biggest difference between him and Snider of last winter. Huntington has not yet once been successful trading a player likely to be non-tendered, heading all the way back to Matt Capps, unless you count Ike Davis for fake money last year. Teams would rather take the chance of getting the player without giving up a return and paying their arbitrated salary.

    If the Pirates want to trade Alvarez, I think they’ll have to do what the Mets did with Ike Davis; take him to arb and then unload him.

    • $7 million would be great. But I have a feeling Boras could go as high as $9 million (using the current $5.5 million 2nd year arb salary and the traditional 40/60/80 rule).

      Still, even at $9 million, although that looks like a bad contract (Pedro would need 1.2-1.5-ish WAR to make that break-even), as you say, elite power is hard to find. And in some of the bandbox AL parks, you could see the potential for 35-40 HRs.

      Could you imagine Pedro at Yankee Stadium? Here’s a look at how far over the wall his 2015 HRs would be in The Bronx. I’d book him for 40+ there.

      • Except for the fact that Pedro is the biggest mental midget in the majors and the pressure of playing in the Bronx would make him an absolute head case

        • Or, you know, he just isnt as talented as other guys and his struggles are due to a heavy K rate and lack of consistency.

          Every time a player is inconsistent over a career doesnt mean he is a headcase, he could actually just not be that good. Id actually take the guy who never really shows his emotions on the field over the guy who rides the emotion wave.

          • There is no question Pedro is a headcase in the field. His throwing problems are attributed to his having time to think when he throws. He has the ability (look at 2011-2013) but once he began having throwing issues, they continued because of his incapability of mentally overcoming those throwing mistakes.

            • There is no question that you assume a ton off of zero actual facts.

              • Yes since you also provided numerous facts.

                Here are the facts. Pedro had 6 throwing errors in 2010 and 5 in 2011. In 2012 that number jumped to 16 with 12 in 2013 and a ridiculous 24 in 2014. That isn’t inconsistency. His issues stemmed from his footwork. He did a lot of work during the season to correct this footwork and actually did correct it. The problem is that the footwork became his main focus and he lost focus and confidence on his ability to throw. Pedro, along with the rest of Pittsburgh had no confidence that he could make a good throw across the diamond.

                I’m not speaking for his bat at all and never did in the course of this thread. If you can’t see that Pedro’s worst enemy is his own head, you haven’t watched him enough.

      • You’re absolutely correct, $9m isn’t out of the question. The only reason I started low is because there apparently has started to be a move away from traditional arb evaluations (big counting stats) to overall player value. If the later is true, back to back replacement level seasons would make for an awfully tough sell.

        As for the “bad contract”, I don’t think you see the majority of teams thinking that narrowly on short term deals. $9m simply isn’t much in 2015 Major League Baseball, and on only a 1 yr deal the risk is practically nothing for all but maybe three or four clubs.

        The thing about Pedro’s power is that it will literally play anywhere. The key is to increase his fly ball rate. Brandon Moss went from hitting roughly 50% of his contact on the ground as a Pirate to around 30% as an A. If a club with a good hitting coach can get Alvarez up to a 40% fly ball rate, he’s a 40 HR guy even if he doesn’t see every at bat against lefties. The power is that real.

    • I wonder what would happen if the Pirates went the Snider route, tendered him a contract, and then tried to deal him?

      • Is this bad form by the way? I realize it’s a little different than when they extended McLouth and then dealt him but baseball seems to have a lot unwritten rules that I’ve never truly understood.

        • I don’t think there’s an unwritten rule here. It’s not much different than having a guy under contract and trading him. The key difference is that you only have him under control, and his contract isn’t known heading into the off-season.

      • To me, this is the smartest path.

        I’m a broken record at this point if you’re unfortunate enough to read my comments, but the Pirates as a $100m team have the luxury of taking on short term salary risks. Pedro Alvarez would certainly be that next year if they tendered him, but he’d also be an interesting trade asset to a club desperate for power who may have an equally risky arm they’re willing to exchange, for instance.

        And at absolute worst, he’s a platoon bat who keeps Josh Bell’s seat warm before being dumped in a salary swap later in the year. If the Pirates can dump Tabata, they can figure a way to dump Alvarez next year as well.

    • I’m a Pedro fan, and I flip flop on his future with the team as much as anyone, but here is the deal, Pedro is the 5th worse player in the NL with a grand total of 0.0 WAR. I think I’m ready for him to be gone and if we could get anything for him it would be great, wonder what the Angels have to trade for him?

      • So first of all, I don’t disagree at all with you in concept. Here me out on why I don’t necessarily buy your point in all situations…

        By straight WAR, Jared Hughes is also a replacement level player, or worse. The very real, very useful skill he has does not equate to being an overall valuable pitcher. Due to his current level of defense, Pedro Alvarez is also basically a replacement level player, but similar to Hughes he does have a particular skill that is undoubtedly valuable.

        In the absence of an appreciably better overall player to take his place, I could buy an argument that says the power Pedro would provide to a lineup otherwise mostly devoid of that skill could be more valuable to a team like the Pirates than a straight WAR calculation dictates. Remember, it’s a rough tool not a scalpel.

        Without Alvarez or a similar replacement, the Pirates almost certainly will be one of the very few worst power hitting teams in baseball next year, and their remaining lineup still projects to strike out and walk enough (or not) that they also don’t really fit the mold of a high contact, high OBP club. A guy who can put a run on the board by himself 20-30 times absolutely has a place in that kind of lineup.

  • I haven’t been able to catch any of the games with the Brewers so why the heck have the Pirates struggled so much against Nelson this year?

    • I hope someone can shed some light on it too. That guy walked 8 in his last start.

    • They had a lot of trouble with his off-speed stuff and appeared to be guessing wrong all night. Polanco, Marte and McCutcheon a combined 1 for 12 really hurt. “Frustrating” was the word the announcers kept using all night. They kept pointing out that Nelson was making mistake pitches and missing the glove, but the Bucs were not capitalizing.

  • Bye Felicia.

  • Pirates are certainly going to have a busy off-season. I believe Alvarez’s future is in AL as a DH primarily. I’ll be stunned if he isn’t dealt this winter in a deal not much different than the Snider trade last winter.

    As for Walker, he has value, $10mm worth of value, I don’t see it. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s traded this winter, too. Not sure they’ll be much of a market for a defensively challenged, older, injury prone 2B for $10mm though. If I were Walker, I’d buy a 1B glove and spend this winter with Kevin Young learning to play the position.

    • I like them both, but the bottom line is that neither fit the future plans of the Pirates. I think Walker could have had a long term contract a few years ago, but he wanted to stretch it out. I think he made a mistake.

      Pedro is headed to the AL this off-season, and Walker will stay longer than Pedro just to allow time for Bell to mature at AAA where after 29 games, he is hitting around .350 and has yet to make his first error. The Pirates should make the playoffs again in 2015, and then for 2016 we will see a major change in the 25 man roster – time to get ready for the future.

      With the group of Burnett, Bastardo, ARAM, Soria, and Hart gone, the Pirates will have an “extra” $20 mil laying around. Time for a long term contract extension for ‘Cutch? Possibly a contract for Polanco?

      • I’m a little concerned about leadership. Cutch and Burnett appear to be the obvious leaders but I often hear players refer to Walker as one of the leaders (never Pedro though he is well liked).
        Given that Burnett is leaving and that the Pirates would not like to give Pedro $10 million next year – I think you trade Pedro and keep Walker for continuity.
        Morse and some Ishikwa-level free agent could hold down first until Bell is ready. And Hansen could get some playing time in to see if he is ready in 2017

        • Kang has solidified the left side of the infield, thereby making JHAY expendable. I think it is time to do the same with the right side with Bell at 1B and Hanson at 2B. The OF is set and Cervelli has another year of Arbitration remaining, so he will return in 2016. Stewart may also return because he is a solid backup, and key part of the character of this group.

          Leadership is always a concern, but the Pirates did everything possible to make it happen in 2015. When this season ends, the house cleaning will have to begin and some young stars will join the team in 2016. Primary Leaders will be the C’s – ‘Cutch, Cole, Cervelli. I hope to see Taillon, Glasnow, and Chad Kuhl in the Rotation by mid-2016 – no change to the BP.

          • How is Harrison expendable? If anything, with ARam gone and potentially Walker gone or moving to 1b, he’s more valuable next year than right now.

            I do not see the Bucs being a pre-season playoff favorite in 2015 without a significant SP acquisition (and no, not Shields!) in the offseason and a 7/8th inning guy to complement Watson/Caminero (I’m not seeing Hughes as a lockdown), it’ll be a .500+ team, but more along the lines of the Giants, outside looking in.

            We’ve seen what a slow April/May can do a couple of times now and with the predicted moves of Pedro and Melancon, potentially Walker, the departure of AJ, Happ, Bastardo, Soria and likely Blanton, and the not awful releases of Ish and Serpico it’s going to be challenging to play at the current level next year.

            Right now Harrison is projected as the only proven depth for several positions in 2016. One can debate whether last year was a flash in the pan, but there shouldn’t be a debate that he’s going to be valuable going forward in the super-sub role. Not to mention he also appears to provide some leadership and is Cutch’s #1 comrade in arms.

            • bucs: JHAY hit .315, was an AS Pick, and earned a contract based on his 2014 season. In all of the hoopla, nobody noticed that he only walked 22 times in 520 AB’s while striking out 81 times. This year he is hitting about 40 points less in average, and having only 13 walks in 326 AB’s while striking out 52 times is more noticeable. His contract is reasonable for 2015 at $2.8 mil, then it increases to $5 mil, then $7.5 mil, then $10 mil. It just does not make sense with the success of Kang this year. Making that trade will be a lot easier this year than afterward.

              I think Melancon is in his 3rd and last year of Arb, and I would keep the BP intact to offset the newbies that will be in the Rotation in 2016. Cole, Liriano, Happ, Morton, and Locke could start in the Rotation, but after May, watch out.

              After last year’s performance, I saw Jared Hughes as possibly regressing this year – he has but not that much. Melancon, Watson, Caminero, Hughes, and I trust that NH will be able to deliver 3 more bodies who will do well in a Pirate Uni in the BP.

              Did you notice that Shields’ contract goes from $10 mil in 2015 to $21 mil in 2016 – he ain’t going anywhere!

              • I get all that. But we’ve seen the need for depth at multiple positions time and time again. And we’ve also seen the risk of acquiring a defense first guy like SRod. Even if Harrison is around 0.5 WAR or a slight overpay, he’s worth it in 2016 at a minimum. If Hanson or someone else can do the super-sub thing and be around .700 OPS down the road allowing Bucs to deal Harrison, I have no issue with that. But not this offseason. Those guys don’t grow on trees.

                • I agree, and 2016 at $5 mil is a reasonable figure for a utility player. But he will get increasingly hard to deal if he is just a utility player with years of $7.5 mil and $10 mil left on his contract. I think If traded earlier, the market for him and for the Pirates will be better. He has the skills to be an MLB starter, but Kang with his bat and defense is the better player right now, and moving forward.

                  I also think that by next year we could have Max Moroff in AAA and he is looking like an excellent utility infield prospect. I know he has played SS and 2B so far in the minors.

            • The Pirates weren’t preseason playoff picks this year either. So I don’t give a damn about what the pundits say.

              They’re going to be good for at least 5 years, even if all future drafts and FA moves are flops, as long as they limit their financial risk on the moves that they do make.

              • The Bucs certainly were picked for the postseason by many pundits. But more important, we here reasonably expected them to at a minimum get into the WC and rationally expected more.

                I don’t think that’s going to be an expectation in 2016. At least not a reasonable one, unless Neal steps out of character and pays large for a proven starter and a 1b. There are a handful of teams that will be improving. Right now, should the Bucs trade two of NW/PA/MM and let all due new contracts walk, the Bucs would be taking a significant step backwards talent wise.

                2017/18 are different. At that point the Taillon/Glasnow/Bell/Hanson, etc. additions will have their footing.

      • You bring up some valid points Emjay. I doubt Pirates are in any hurry to give Cutch a new deal. Polanco on the other hand looks very much like a prime candidate for a long-term deal.

        Where should Pirates invest the $20mm coming off the books? A SP to replace Burnett’s production is most obvious spot, but Pirates have been very adept at buying low and fixing Pitchers. I’m not convinced they will spend big bucks on a proven guy even though they have payroll flexibility to do so. Especially with Taillon and Glasnow on track to be in rotation by summer.

        • Scott: You may be absolutely correct, but I am thinking that if the Pirates do not make a very sincere effort after still another Top 5 MVP Season happening in 2015, he may just shut the door. He has been one of the best bargains in MLB and he knows it. We do not seem to be able to identify or develop a steady No. 4 hitter to pair with him – just imagine finding a #3 and a #4.

          The Pirates are a team that is thought of very highly by major league players, and that starts with ‘Cutch.

          • Miguel Sano sure would’ve been a nice #4 hitter in Pirates lineup. Still cringe every time I see a highlight of him hitting yet another 450-foot bomb. What a shame Pirates blew that deal.

            As for Cutch, that’s the $million question. Will Pirates pay top dollar for his late prime, decline years? I’m thinking they won’t, but I’m not sure they shouldn’t.

  • Here’s hoping the Bucs have a long postseason and Pedro distinguishes himself. Then the narrative could be, he’s a “clutch” player (he had a good postseason in 2013 as well) and he would become even more marketable. Clearly they are going to attempt to deal either Toro, Walker, or both. Here’s hoping they can actually get something for them but if not they will at least get the draft picks when their contracts run out.

    • derekbellstutu
      September 2, 2015 5:17 am

      With the qualifying offer set at $15.3 million next off season, we can expect the qualifying offer for the 2016 off season to exceed $16 million. There’s no way the Pirates extend qualifying offers to Alvarez or Walker at that rate, despite the promise of draft picks if they were to sign elsewhere. I expect the Bucs to deal Alvarez (Melancon too) to an American League team this off season so that he can DH full-time. I think Walker will be with the Pirates until at least July next season.

      • I don’t think Walker takes a QO regardless…

        • IMO, if Walker gets a QO, that means Neal already has another job lined up.

        • Let me ask you this then. If by some miracle the Pirates make the QO (and I don’t think they will) do you think Walker is valuable enough for another team to give up their first rounder for? If you do then maybe the Pirates take the risk.

          • Absolutely. Barring a disastrous 2016, Walker is still in line for something in the neighborhood of a 3 yr deal for $12m or so per.

            Even with his faults, we’re still talking about a 2-3 win player with 20 HR power at 2B. Might not be a good 2B, but he’ll get paid as one.

            • Well then, unless they get an offer they can’t refuse I’d hold on to him for 2016 and worst you get is a compensatory pick. Hopefully a little more Hayes than Joe with the selection.

              • Yup, been my stance all along. Another 2 WAR season from Walker plus the QO pick is more than I’d risk in a trade.

                $40m or so of additional payroll to play with and a team in contention should absolutely make Huntington’s trading strategy different than the last time he had veterans approaching the end of team control.

      • I don’t think you’re wrong on Melancon either. Don’t know if he’ll be actively shopped, but NH will certainly listen. Could be a lot of movement in the pen. Love Lurch as a person, but it may be time to cut the cord.

        • It would make a ton of sense to sell high on Melancon. They could get a huge return for him, and they’ve got a few closer candidates who could step up and take the role.

          • Couple guys on here have brought it up. Very interested how they tackle it. Seems NH has a knack for knowing when to pull the plug on a closer.

      • Neither of those guys are going to take the QO unless they have an absolutely hideous contract year. Which in Pedro’s case is certainly possible.

        • Pedro could see it as a 1 year cash in before a longer term deal. Its risking future earnings on his play, but if he’s confident he could take a QO, bank 15 million, and then try to find a 3 year deal at reasonable market value.

          Otherwise, he’s likely headed for a Butler-lite type deal…which would mean around 10 million at most over 3 years. Idk, if im him id gamble and take a QO. Worst case the value tanks and you settle for a 4-5 million over a few years.

    • I would rate him a 3 or 4 out of 10 on the clutch scale. He has hit 22 HR this year and 19 of them are solo shots. He only really hits HR when the team is down by 4 or more or up by 4 or more. The Pirates as a team haven’t hit a Grand Slam in something like 3 seasons and the Giants have hit 8 as a team this year.

      • 13 of the 22 have come before the 5th inning. How often have the Pirates been up by four or more before the 5th inning?

        15 have come against starters. Any run against any starter hastens that starter’s exit.

        It would be difficult to argue that any of the above home runs were not valuable.

        Cutch has never hit a grand slam. He has had more PAs than anyone in past 3 seasons. Blame him.

      • Make it up as you go along ……

        • Just no need to be snarky

        • Mercer can't hit RHP
          September 3, 2015 4:33 pm

          He’s right about Pedro hitting solo shots, although he has had some timely hits.
          The Pirates haven’t hit a GS in 2014 and 2015. It just feels like it’s been almost 3 years.
          The Giants have 6 instead of 8 this year
          Quit hanging at Media Matters and get your head out of your aizz

          • Who needs Media Matters when you’ve got Baseball Reference?


            Which clearly shows that only 4 of Pedro’s 22 HRs have come “when the team is down by 4 or more or up by 4 or more”. In fact 15 have come when the game was either tied or the Bucs were within one run.

            In other words, yes, Thomas was making up his own facts.

            And what does any of this have to do with Media Matters, which is a political site?

            • Mercer can't hit RHP
              September 3, 2015 7:51 pm

              I’m not saying that he was correct about when he hit them. I agree that he’s hit 18 solo shots which was followed by “although he has had some timely hits”. Thought I was clear in that part. My bad if I wasn’t.

              Just referencing a site that Leo visits. Sorta an inside joke thingy.

  • Excellent article. I’m hoping for Alvarez to stay on next year and produce similar to what he is now, with potentially some improvement in his defensive play. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to think that with an extra spring training and more off season work for that to be a possibility.

    If Pedro can turn that corner, and Morse refreshes himself on a contending team, I think that greatly eases the transition of Bell to the majors. As we’ve seen with GP, there is no guarantee that even a top prospect will produce right out of the gate. I think Pedro’s chances of stating on the team last next years deadline don’t rest as heavy on Bell’s performance as much as it does the performance of Morse. If he can truly play near the level of his 2014 self then that makes Pedro that much more expendable, while easing some pressure on Bell.