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Pedro Alvarez Rumors
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).
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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.
Manager Dale Sveum is prepared for the possibility that the Cubs could be sellers again at the July 31st trade deadline, Carrie Muskat of MLB.com reports. Sveum said he hopes to be in contention but will understand if the team needs to re-focus on 2014. "If your team is out of it, to start building and getting a healthier organization, unfortunately or fortunately, that's part of the business," he said. Here are some more notes from around the National League…
- Tom Singer of MLB.com explains that the Pirates would probably like to lock up core players such as Neil Walker and Pedro Alvarez. While Walker would presumably like to stay with the Pirates, his hometown team, retaining him will be expensive, as Singer outlines. Alvarez, a New York native, might like the idea of playing for the Yankees in Singer's view.
- Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com hears that Kip Wells looked good throwing for Phillies people yesterday (Twitter link). Wells, who started seven games for the Padres last year, had good off-speed pitches, Heyman writes.
- Adrian Gonzalez said that he couldn't be happier to be playing for the Dodgers, Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register reports. "I'm really really happy and excited to be here and really excited about where the team is heading and what we have an opportunity to do here," Gonzalez said. The Dodgers acquired Gonzalez from the Red Sox in a blockbuster trade last August.
The Pirates have exercised their 2013 club option for Pedro Alvarez and declined for Rod Barajas, reports Rob Biertempfel of The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (on Twitter). The team also released southpaw Hisanori Takahashi.
Alvarez will earn $700K next season and would have remained under team control as a pre-arbitration eligible player had Pittsburgh declined the option. Barajas, 37, hit .206/.283/.343 with 11 homers this year and will receive no buyout rather than a $3.5MM salary. Takahashi, 37, was due to hit free agency so his release is just procedural. He pitched to a 5.54 ERA in 50 1/3 innings split between the Angels and Pirates in 2012.
A pivotal battle between two division rivals in the midst of a playoff race took 19 innings to complete as the Pirates beat the Cardinals by the score of 6-3. Pedro Alvarez gave Pittsburgh the lead in the top of 19th when he hit a solo shot against Barret Browning. The Pirates took the three-game series with the win and would be headed to the playoffs if the season ended today as the second Wild Card.
Here's the latest news and headlines from around the National League…
- With the Braves set to play one more series against the Nationals after this week's showdown, Atlanta realizes the importance of making up ground in D.C. starting on Monday, writes Andrew Simon of MLB.com. The Braves have a comfortable hold on the top Wild Card spot but have played well enough to make a run at the division only to be matched win-for-win by Washington. "We have the opportunity to take advantage because it seems like every time we win, they win and they don't lose very often," said Freddie Freeman. "So this is our time to try to take control of things and get a little closer."
- Nationals right-hander Edwin Jackson, a free agent after the season, would like to remain in D.C. on a deal longer than the one-year contract he signed in February, according to MLB.com's Bill Ladson. "Anything more than one year," Jackson said. "It would be nice to settle down for more than one year, for sure. I would like to [stay]. I could see myself being a part of [the Nationals], but at the end of the day, it's up to ownership."
- The battle against performance-enhancing drugs remains an uphill struggle for Major League Baseball, opines Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com. Rosenthal suggests Melky Cabrera's actions reflect a desperate person willing to resort to desperate actions as he may have viewed PEDs as the lone way to salvage his career. While there may be less users in baseball as compared to a decade ago, players are still abusing the system and reaping the benefits that Cabrera enjoyed for almost a full season, if not longer.