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Pedro Alvarez Rumors
Here’s the latest out of the NL Central …
- The Brewers have decided to exercise a $13MM option over starter Yovani Gallardo, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. As MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy recently explained, that move was widely expected with the 28-year-old righty coming off of 192 1/3 frames of 3.51 ERA ball. Gallardo would have presented an interesting free agent case; though he would have faced a lot of competition in the mid-tier starter’s market, his age remains intriguing.
- Pirates starter Charlie Morton has undergone surgery on a torn right hip labrum, the club announced today. That procedure is expected to sideline him for between six and eight months, meaning that he may not be counted on to start the year in the rotation. The 30-year-old righty has posted a 3.72 ERA over 157 1/3 innings this year, after signing a three-year, $21MM extension before the season.
- As the Morton situation serves to illustrate, things never slow down for Pirates GM Neal Huntington, as Ron Cook of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes. Regarding the team’s slate of pending free agents, Huntington indicated that he hopes to retain at least some of its players but, if not, will work hard to find the next bunch of undervalued open market assets. Looking back, Huntington said he has continued to wonder what the team missed in not pushing harder to bring back Justin Morneau. “What did we miss in that process that he would go out and have such a great year?” Huntington asked. “That’s been a challenging one, absolutely, especially given our continued challenges at first base and what that production would have looked like in the middle of our lineup.”
- As he looks ahead to the offseason, Huntington says that he believes Pedro Alvarez will return to being an important part of the club. The struggling third baseman has taken a step back after two productive seasons, but is still just 27 and comes with two more years of control through arbitration.
Despite their outfield logjam, the Red Sox will be in attendance for Yasmani Tomas‘ showcase in the Dominican Republic on Sunday, writes Rob Bradford of WEEI.com. Bradford spoke with Boston’s newest outfielder, Rusney Castillo, about his countryman and received strong reviews. “He’s a really high quality baseball player, and a really good person,” said Castillo through an interpreter. “He’s got a ton of power. For his physique, he actually moves pretty well. He’s pretty quick for a big guy.” Castillo agrees with scouting reports that say Tomas isn’t the same athlete that Yasiel Puig or Yoenis Cespedes is, but likened his power to that of Jose Abreu.
More from Bradford and some additional pieces on the Red Sox…
- Red Sox owner John Henry told Bradford, via email, that the team’s near-miss on Abreu fueled the club’s aggressiveness on Castillo. Boston bid just $5MM less than the White Sox did to secure Abreu, prompting Henry to admit: “Yes, the financial aspects were impacted by coming close on Abreu. The White Sox did their homework.”
- GM Ben Cherington appeared on the Dennis & Callahan radio show to discuss a number of Red Sox topics, and WEEI’s Jerry Spar has some highlights. Cherington said that while the team doesn’t consider Castillo to be have one elite tool, they feel he’s very good in a lot of categories and should be a quality Major League outfielder. Cherington stopped short, however, of proclaiming Castillo the team’s center fielder in 2015. (The Arizona Fall League announced today that Castillo will play there this offseason, which should give Boston more time to make that evaluation.) He also addressed the Mookie Betts situation, noting that the team most likely projects Betts as an outfielder moving forward and has not discussed playing him at third base.
- “I think it’s safe to say we would still have interest in keeping him here,” Cherington said in that same appearance when asked about Koji Uehara. Cherington praised Uehara’s accountability during his recent rough patch, and that accountability is an appealing factor when pursuing a new contract. Boston has yet to make an offer or discuss a new contract with Uehara at this time, per Cherington.
- As John Tomase of the Boston Herald points out, the Red Sox, by some metrics, have had the worst production in the league at third base. As such, they’ll be on the hunt for third basemen with power this offseason, preferably ones that hit left-handed or are switch-hitters in order to balance out a right-leaning lineup. Tomase expects Pedro Alvarez to be on the team’s list, as the club tried desperately to sign him as a 14th-round pick out of high school back in 2005. Boston was willing to offer Alvarez $850K and showed a late willingness to push the number closer to Alvarez’s $1MM asking price, but he instead attended Vanderbilt. The decision paid off, as Alvarez was drafted No. 2 overall and received a $6MM signing bonus from the Pirates three years later. Tomase speculates that a swap of underachieving third basemen — Alvarez and Will Middlebrooks — might make sense for both clubs (presumably, other pieces would be required in such a deal).
- The right-leaning nature of Boston’s lineup is the focus of the latest from Tony Massarotti of the Boston Globe, who notes that the Sox currently project to have just one regular lefty bat in the lineup next season — David Ortiz. While others such as Brock Holt, Jackie Bradley and the switch-hitting Daniel Nava could be worked into the mix, the team cannot afford to have such a glaring deficiency, as other clubs will exploit it, writes Massarotti.
The Pirates announced, via press release, that Pedro Alvarez has been diagnosed with a stress reaction of the fourth metatarsal in his left foot — an injury that comes with a four to six week recovery timeline. The powerful Alvarez had lost playing time to Josh Harrison at third base but has still seen the occasional start at the hot corner plus some starts at first base and DH (during interleague play, of course). That injury seems likely to sideline him for the remainder of the 2014 season, meaning that his campaign will come to a close with a rather disappointing .231/.312/.405 slash line and 18 homers.
Here are some more notes pertaining to notable injuries from around the league…
- Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia will undergo surgery on his left hand tomorrow, thereby ending his 2014 season. It’s been a rough few weeks for Pedroia, who also missed time due to concussion-like symptoms at the end of August after an on-field collision. The ’08 MVP batted .278/.337/.376 this season, which despite translating to league-average production (101 OPS+), is the least-productive full season he’s had in terms of rate stats.
- While the Bucs and BoSox received bad news today, the Tigers got some good news regarding Jose Iglesias‘ injuries, writes Chris Iott of MLive.com. Iglesias was cleared for lower body workouts after receiving a CT scan and MRI that showed the stress fractures in each of his shins have healed. The defensive wizard has not been able to do any lower body work while dealing with the injuries but will now accelerate his rehab with a physical therapist in Miami before beginning an offseason training program in November. He appears to be on track for a 2015 return, says Iott, who spoke with head athletic trainer Kevin Rand and was told this was “the best possible outcome we could hope for.”
In May 2013, Pedro Alvarez's agent, Scott Boras, declared that he and his client would be "open" to the possibility of a long-term contract with the Pirates. Since then, and particularly since the Bucs inked Starling Marte to a long-term deal last month, the Pittsburgh media has chattered about the Pirates' chances of signing Alvarez.
That Boras was open to an Alvarez extension wasn't that surprising. Boras' antipathy to pre-free agent deals, or perhaps the impact of his antipathy to pre-free agent deals upon actual negotiations, is sometimes overstated — a number of Boras clients, including Carlos Gonzalez, Carlos Gomez, Carlos Pena, Elvis Andrus, Jered Weaver and Ryan Madson, have signed them. (Besides, Alvarez was hitting just .200/.257/.406 at the time of Boras' comments.)
Nonetheless, that Boras is Alvarez's agent is still an issue. Alvarez himself would probably have to be strongly in favor of a deal for Boras to sign off on it. The squabbles between Boras and the Pirates after the Bucs drafted Alvarez in 2008 might be anecdotal evidence that neither Boras nor Alvarez will cede much ground on an extension (although 2008 was also long enough ago that it might not matter). And Boras recently criticized "donut contracts" for pre-free agency players that feature options at the end. It probably would not be easy at all for the Pirates to work out a long-term deal for Alvarez.
Alvarez is set to make $4.25MM this year, his first year of arbitration eligibility, and to become eligible for free agency following the 2016 season. Pittsburgh Tribune-Review beat writer Travis Sawchik has frequently compared Alvarez's career to that of Chris Davis, and if Alvarez's age-27 season were to go as well as Davis' did, Alvarez would get enormous raises in his last two arbitration seasons — Davis, for example, got a raise from $3.3MM to $10.35MM after hitting 53 home runs last year. Still, a 50-homer season isn't likely for Alvarez, and arbitration salaries are broadly predictable, so let's guess that Alvarez will make about $22-25MM from 2014 through 2016 if the Pirates don't sign him long-term. (A $22MM-$25MM projection suggests he will still get fairly steep raises, given that power tends to be rewarded in arbitration.)
A long-term deal for Alvarez would likely start there. Where it would end up is another matter, and Freddie Freeman's enormous eight-year, $135MM contract with the Braves would be a very tough precedent for the Pirates to get around, given that both Freeman and Alvarez are both corner sluggers with between three and four years of service time. The Pirates might argue that Freeman is two-and-a-half years younger than Alvarez, and has a much better track record hitting for average. But even if we lop the last two years off Freeman's contract to address the age difference, we're left with six years and $91MM, which would be a lot for the Pirates to pay Alvarez, given that his next three seasons will be relatively cheap. Dropping that $91MM total somewhat to reflect Freeman's broader base of offensive skills would only help so much.
And even that might concede too much for Boras' taste. While Freeman is a better player than Alvarez, Boras might not see it that way, perhaps arguing that Alvarez's superior power ought to make him every bit as valuable to the Pirates as Freeman was for the Braves.
At this point, we're left with the question of just what a pre-free agency extension for Alvarez would be for. Alvarez is already 27, and the Pirates control him through his age-29 season. The only point in signing Alvarez long-term would be to control seasons beyond that, and Alvarez and Boras would surely want to be paid quite well to give up those seasons.
The problem is that it's not clear how valuable Alvarez will be in his thirties. His raw power is outstanding, on par with Davis', but only so much of Alvarez's raw power is usable, because of his struggles with strikeouts (he whiffed at least 180 times in both 2012 and 2013) and hitting for average. The track records of sluggers with serious strikeout issues are spotty — Mark Reynolds, for example, was productive while striking out prodigiously in his mid-twenties, but he hasn't had a truly strong offensive season since age 27. Ryan Howard's career and contract provide more cautionary tales. Alvarez's low averages (he's only hit above .244 once in his career) are already a concern. His plate appearances so far in 2014 have looked much better than in years past, so perhaps there's a faint possibility that Alvarez can master his strikeout issues. Unless he can prove himself over a longer time frame, however, it makes little sense to bet on that.
Then there are Alvarez's other skills. He's become an average third baseman and baserunner, but it's questionable whether he'll be able to maintain his current defensive and baserunning abilities as he heads into his thirties, given his bulky physique and lack of raw speed.
Given the likelihood that Alvarez won't age well, then, the Pirates' best course of action may simply be to enjoy the three years of him they have left. Signing a big, strikeout-prone slugger into his thirties doesn't make sense, even accounting for the slim possibility that he'll break out and become the next Chris Davis. Long-term contracts are calculated risks, and other things being equal, it's better to take the risk on a younger, more athletic player like Marte.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
We'll keep track of today's smaller deals to avoid arbitration in this post. Click here for background on the upcoming arbitration schedule and how MLBTR is covering it. You can also check in on our Arbitration Tracker and look at MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz's arbitration projections.
Today's noon CT deadline to exchange arb figures has passed, but negotiations to avoid an arbitration hearing can continue into February. The Braves are the only strict "file and trial" team that did not agree to terms with all of its arb-eligible players, meaning they could be headed for several hearings. The Nats and Indians have also shown a willingness to go to a trial and still have some players unsigned. On to today's contract agreements…
- After exchanging numbers, the Mets and pitcher Dillon Gee have agreed to settle at the midpoint of $3.625MM, tweets Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com. Swartz projected Gee to earn $3.4MM.
- The Cubs have avoided arbitration with reliever Pedro Strop, president Theo Epstein told Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune (Twitter link). He will earn $1.325MM next year, according to a tweet from Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times. It is not immediately apparent whether the deal was reached before the sides exchanged terms.
- The Angels have reached agreement on a $3.8MM deal with reliever Ernesto Frieri, reports Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com (on Twitter).
- Mike Minor has agreed to terms on a $3.85MM deal with the Braves to avoid arbitration, reports Mark Bowman of MLB.com (Twitter links). The deal came before figures were exchanged, Bowman notes.
- Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish reports that the D-Backs and lefty Joe Thatcher have avoided arb with a one-year, $2.375MM deal (Twitter link).
- Nicholson-Smith tweets that the Angels and Fernando Salas reached an agreement to avoid arbitration. Salas is the first Halos player to avoid arb. Mike DiGiovanna of the L.A. Times tweets that Salas will earn $870K, which beats out his $700K projection.
- MLB.com's Jason Beck reports (via Twitter) that the Tigers and righty Al Alburquerque have reached agreement on a deal to avoid arb. The hard-throwing righty will earn $837.5K in 2014, tweets Beck.
- Sherman tweets that the Yankees and Ivan Nova avoided arbitration with a one-year, $3.3MM deal.
- The Pirates and Vin Mazzaro inked a one-year, $950K deal in lieu of an arbitration hearing, tweets Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune.
- The Royals announced that they've avoided arbitration with infielder Emilio Bonifacio. Heyman tweets that Bonifacio will earn $3.5MM in 2014.
- Sherman reports that the Rays avoided arbitration with Jeremy Hellickson and Sean Rodriguez (Twitter link). Hellickson landed a $3.625MM payday with a $25K bonus if he hits 195 innings pitched. Rodriguez will get $1.475MM with a $25K bump for hitting 300 plate appearances.
- Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com tweets that Brian Matusz avoided arb with the Orioles. Sherman adds that he'll earn $2.4MM in 2014.
- MLB.com's Brian McTaggart tweets that Jason Castro and the Astros have avoided arbitration. McTaggart adds in a second tweet that Jesus Guzman avoided arb as well. Heyman reports that Castro will be paid $2.45MM, while Sherman tweets that Guzman will make $1.3MM.
- The Indians tweeted that they've avoided arb with lefty Marc Rzepczynski, and MLB.com's Jordan Bastian tweets that he'll earn $1.375MM in 2014. Bastian adds that Scrabble will earn an additional $25K for appearing in 55 games and another $25K for 60 games.
- The Giants avoided arbitration with Yusmeiro Petit, according to MLBTR's Steve Adams (on Twitter). He'll earn $845K, according to Sportsnet's Ben Nicholson-Smith (via Twitter).
Full Story | Comments | Categories: Al Alburquerque | Alejandro De Aza | Alexi Ogando | Alfredo Simon | Arizona Diamondbacks | Atlanta Braves | Baltimore Orioles | Bobby Parnell | Boston Red Sox | Brandon Moss | Brett Cecil | Brian Duensing | Brian Matusz | Chicago Cubs | Chris Johnson | Cincinnati Reds | Cleveland Indians | Colorado Rockies | Craig Gentry | Detroit Tigers | Dillon Gee | Drew Storen | Drew Stubbs | Emilio Bonifacio | Eric Hosmer | Ernesto Frieri | Esmil Rogers | Gaby Sanchez | Gordon Beckham | Gregor Blanco | Houston Astros | Ivan Nova | Jake McGee | James Russell | Jason Castro | Jeremy Hellickson | Jerry Blevins | Jesus Guzman | Joe Thatcher | John Mayberry Jr. | Jon Jay | Jonathan Herrera | Jordan Schafer | Jose Lobaton | Juan Francisco | Juan Nicasio | Junichi Tazawa | Kansas City Royals | Kyle Blanks | Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim | Luis Valbuena | Marc Rzepczynski | Mark Melancon | Matt Joyce | Miami Marlins | Mike Dunn | Milwaukee Brewers | Minnesota Twins | Neftali Feliz | New York Mets | New York Yankees | Oakland Athletics | Pedro Alvarez | Pedro Strop | Peter Bourjos | Philadelphia Phillies | Pittsburgh Pirates | San Diego Padres | San Francisco Giants | Sean Rodriguez | Shawn Kelley | St. Louis Cardinals | Tampa Bay Rays | Texas Rangers | Tommy Hunter | Tony Abreu | Toronto Blue Jays | Transactions | Trevor Plouffe | Troy Patton | Vin Mazzaro | Washington Nationals | Wilson Ramos | Yusmeiro Petit
Let's round up a few morning updates from around the NL Central….
- Charlie Morton and the Pirates reached an agreement on a three-year extension yesterday, but the team has yet to discuss long-term deals with Neil Walker or Pedro Alvarez this offseason, according to Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
- The Cardinals have discussed Brian Roberts as a potential target, but his injury history limits the team's enthusiasm, says Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
- The last open spot on the Brewers' 40-man roster had originally been ticketed for Corey Hart, but now that Hart is headed to Seattle instead, Milwaukee is considering using that opening to pick a player in this morning's Rule 5 draft. Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has the details.
- The Cubs may end up selecting a player in the Rule 5 draft, but it sounds like the team is preparing to lose more players than it adds, according to MLB.com's Carrie Muskat (via Twitter).
The NLCS is taking a day off as the scene shifts to Los Angeles for Game 3 tomorrow night with the Cardinals leading the Dodgers 2-0. Here is the latest news and notes out of the National League today:
- The Rockies need to improve their talent acquisition via the draft and Latin America in order to overcome the crushing injuries suffered in recent seasons, according to Troy E. Renck of the Denver Post. Tim Hudson, whose free agency was profiled this past week by MLBTR's Steve Adams, would make a perfect middle-of-the-rotation starter for the Rockies, Renck opines.
- The Pirates' payroll will increase significantly in 2014 aiding their efforts to retain free agents Marlon Byrd and A.J. Burnett while also trying to sign Neil Walker and Pedro Alvarez to long-term extensions, reports the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Rob Biertempfel.
- The Mets will face a dilemma with their 40-man roster when it comes time to protect minor league players from the Rule 5 draft, reports ESPNNewYork.com's Adam Rubin. The Mets' 40-man roster is currently full and will be so again once the eight players on the 60-day disabled list replace the eight pending free agents on the 40-man. Jordany Valdespin headlines Rubin's list of eight Mets who could lose their roster spot.
- The Reds' managerial search is centered on pitching coach Bryan Price and Triple-A manager Jim Riggleman, writes John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer. Fay expects Price to get the job; but, if neither candidate impresses ownership in upcoming interviews, the search may be expanded.
- Nationals third-base coach Trent Jewett has an excellent shot to become the team's next manager, reports ESPN.com's Buster Olney (Insider subscription required).
Magic Johnson's candor about the Dodgers likely not pursuing Robinson Cano this offseason has led Major League Baseball to look into Johnson's comments, ESPN's Buster Olney reports. Officials on other teams aren't allowed to publicly discuss players who haven't officially become free agents yet, especially in cases where a player's market value could be affected. General managers around the league told Olney that "their comments were watched more closely over the last year than in any time in recent memory," so Johnson could face some type of penalty for his remarks.
Here are some news items as we end another exciting day of four playoff games…
- Joe Girardi "apparently remains torn" if he's going to accept the Yankees' extension offer or explore other manager jobs, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times reports. The Yankees "have made it clear" that they could pull back their offer if Girardi talks to other clubs, something he's not allowed to do until the end of the month since the Yankees aren't granting other teams permission to negotiate with their manager. One such team, the Cubs, expect to learn by tomorrow if Girardi is staying in New York, a source tells Wittenmyer.
- The Pirates want to keep Neil Walker and Pedro Alvarez over the long term, team president Frank Coonelly tells MLB.com's Tom Singer. Coonelly also discusses the Francisco Liriano signing, the farm system and other topics during the interview.
- "It wouldn't be shocking" if the Reds traded Homer Bailey to create some payroll space, MLB.com's Mark Sheldon opines. Bailey earned $5.3MM last season and MLBTR's Matt Swartz projects that he could earn $9.3MM in arbitration. Though Bailey has been one of the Reds' best pitchers over the last two years, he "has shown little interest in signing" a multiyear deal with the team, Sheldon writes, so the Reds could move him now before possibly losing him in free agency after next season.
- Major League Baseball has filed a motion requesting that Alex Rodriguez's lawsuit against the league be moved to a federal court, and if the move is granted, MLB will likely file a motion to dismiss the suit, Newsday's Steven Marcus reports.
- The Indians have a number of things to do before Opening Day 2014, writes Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Hoynes' list includes adding an impact bat, adding at least one quality starter, bolstering the relief corps and locking up Justin Masterson to a long-term deal.
- It once seemed unusual, but now its the norm for playoff teams to turn to inexperienced pre-arbitration eligible players, Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca writes. Among the 24 pre-arb hurlers in this year's postseason are Michael Wacha, Jarrod Parker and Alex Cobb, all of whom started today for their respective teams.
MLBTR's Zach Links contributed to this post
Ryan Braun today issued his first public statements since he accepted a 65-game suspension for PED use in connection with the Biogenesis scandal. The Brewers slugger issued one statement specifically to fans and another to the baseball world in general (both links to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel). The latter statement outlined the circumstances of Braun's PED usage, some of the reasoning behind his public claims of playing clean and apologized to several parties, including Major League Baseball officials, the Brewers organization, his teammates, Dino Laurenzi Jr. (the urine test collector Braun disparaged in the appeal of his initial suspension in the 2011-12 offseason), baseball fans and any supporters who believed in his innocence. The statement includes this passage:
"I understand it's a blessing and a tremendous honor to play this game at the Major League level. I also understand the intensity of the disappointment from teammates, fans, and other players. When it comes to both my actions and my words, I made some very serious mistakes and I can only ask for the forgiveness of everyone I let down. I will never make the same errors again and I intend to share the lessons I learned with others so they don't repeat my mistakes. Moving forward, I want to be part of the solution and no longer part of the problem."
Here's the latest from around the NL Central…
- The Cardinals are in need of pitching reinforcements and GM John Mozeliak is pessimistic that such help could be found on the trade or waiver market. Mozeliak told reporters (including Derrick Gould of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch) that "trying to get help from the outside is going to be difficult for multiple reasons. Right now this team is going to have to find a way to do it from within."
- The Pirates have been patient with Pedro Alvarez's development and the young slugger has at least delivered in the power department, CBS Sports' Scott Miller writes. Alvarez has a .233/.296/.482 line with a league-leading 154 strikeouts in 477 PA, but his 31 homers is tied with Paul Goldschmidt for the National League lead.
- Javier Baez is having a huge minor league season but it seems unlikely that the Cubs will call up the star shortstop when rosters expand in September. Manager Dale Sveum praised Baez's season but he told reporters (including Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times) that while the front office has the final say on Baez's future, “I don’t see it happening.” Baez, the ninth overall pick of the 2011 draft, was rated as the 16th-best prospect in the sport by both Baseball America and MLB.com's preseason prospect rankings and has hit a combined .286/.348/.581 with 33 homers, 100 RBI and 19 steals in 531 PA at high-A ball and Double-A this year. Since Baez is only 20 and hasn't hit Triple-A yet, it makes sense that the Cubs aren't yet willing to start his service clock.
- With Jonathan Broxton out for the season, the Reds make a lot of sense as a suitor for Rafael Betancourt, The Denver Post's Troy Renck opines (Twitter link). The Rockies put Betancourt on revocable waivers earlier today. The veteran closer is owed roughly $785K for the remainder of the season and has a $4.25MM club option for 2014. Renck notes that the Rockies plan to exercise Betancourt's option, and they'll explore bringing him back in 2014 even if he leaves on a waiver deal for the remainder of this season.
- Rickie Weeks' future, international signings, pitching development, the Braun controversy and other Brewers-related topics are all addressed by Todd Rosiak of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in an online chat with readers.
- In NL Central news from earlier today, we learned that the Cubs plan to go after Shin-Soo Choo in free agency during the offseason.
Both Pedro Alvarez (via agent Scott Boras) and the Pirates have expressed interest in exploring an extension for the 26-year-old third baseman, reports Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. The team expects Alvarez to become arbitration eligible after this season, which would void a $700k team option for 2014 but leave him under team control through the 2016 season.
Boras said that the Alvarez camp was "open to the idea" of discussing a long-term deal over the coming offseason. Of course, he gave no indication that such a contract would come at a discount. Boras noted that Alvarez's "combination of 20 to 30 [home run] power and quality defense at third base" was a valuable commodity, and predicted that "his best years are yet to come." Alvarez smacked 30 home runs last year for the Pirates in his first full season as a regular, and posted a .244/.317/.467 slash line. He has continued to hit the long ball this year, though he has struggled to get on base (.200/.257/.406). As the second overall pick in the 2008 draft, Alvarez already netted one substantial payday when he signed a four-year, $6.355MM deal (and had his 2013 option exercised at $700k).
From the perspective of the Pirates, team president Frank Coonelly also expressed a willingness to talk, saying: "Open minds often lead to common ground and, ultimately, to agreement. We also have an open mind on these issues and will continue to evaluate seriously the merits of a long-term agreement with Pedro, just like we do with all of our young players." He did note that the team's philosophy required that free agent years be included in any such deal: "We are proponents of multiyear deals for our core players. For us, buying out free-agent years is very important. To do otherwise doesn't make much sense."
While there is much for Alvarez to prove before he earns an extension, Pittsburgh's expressed interest makes it worth a look ahead to see what Alvarez could potentially garner if he has a strong end to his 2013 season. MLBTR's Extension Tracker reveals three recent extensions for power-hitting, young third-basemen on the cusp of arbitration eligibility. Before the 2012 season, the Giants agreed to a deal with then-25-year-old third baseman Pablo Sandoval that bought out his three arbitration-eligible seasons but did not include any free agent years. The three-year deal was worth a total of $17.15MM plus incentives. Likewise, Mark Reynolds signed a three-year, $14.5MM deal with the Diamondbacks that bought out his first two arbitration years (along with one pre-arb season) and included a $11MM option on his final year of arbitration eligibility. (The Orioles did not exercise that option and declined to afford Reynolds arbitration by not tendering him a contract, making him a free agent.) The Nationals locked up Ryan Zimmerman for five years and $45MM just weeks into the 2009 season, after previously agreeing to avoid arbitration in his first season of eligibility. Effectively, the deal covered three arbitration years and two free agent seasons.
Certainly, Alvarez has not demonstrated the level of performance of Sandoval, Reynolds, and Zimmerman at the time their deals were signed. (Sandoval was coming off of a .315/.357/.552 slash with 23 home runs. Reynolds had just posted a .260/.349/.543 line with 44 homers and 24 steals. Zimmerman was just 24 and had already put up three seasons of stellar defense and strong power/on-base numbers, though he was coming off of an injury-shortened 2008.) And the Sandoval and Reynolds models seem to be non-starters if the Pirates insist on buying free agent years. Nevertheless, they could provide something of a guide for the value of Alvarez's arbitration seasons, as his big power totals and consistent playing time figure to play well in that setting.
While Zimmerman's deal is somewhat outdated at this point, it would presumably set an upper bound on what Alvarez could look for in a five-year pact. Looking outside of third baggers, the four-year, $30MM deal that the Royals gave to Billy Butler before the 2011 season could be a target for Alvarez. Kansas City also picked up a $12.5MM team option for another year. That contract covered three arbitration seasons and one year of free agency. While Butler was undoubtedly a more accomplished hitter, his DH status limited his value. (For reference, Butler was worth 1.9 fWAR in 2009 and 2.6 fWAR in 2010. Manning third, Alvarez logged 2.3 fWAR last year.)
Of course, this set of comparable players is relatively heady territory for a player with Alvarez's somewhat spotty track record. His slow start at the plate this year has been accompanied by eight errors and a .938 fielding percentage, though advanced fielding metrics peg him as above average thus far. And the Pirates have handed out only one deal to a player (Andrew McCutchen) with between two and five years of service time since their 2009 deal with Nate McLouth.