The Pirates have reached an agreement to sign free-agent right-hander Henderson Alvarez, according to MLB insider Robert Murray. Alvarez, 30, has not pitched in the Majors since 2017, and has most recently turned up with the American Association’s Milwaukee Milkmen. The deal, which is still pending a physical, will bring Alvarez aboard on a minor league contract, per Adam Berry of MLB.com. He’ll report to the Pirates’ alternate training site in Altoona.
Although it feels like ages since we’ve seen Henderson Alvarez on a Major League mound, he’s still just 30 years old and hasn’t yet eclipsed six years of MLB service time.
He’s best recognized for his stint with the Marlins, where he was a key member of the rotation for the Fish of the early-2010s. Alvarez was one of the pieces sent back to Miami in the 2012 blockbuster trade that seemed to involve half of MLB (it was in fact only 12 plyaers), with Mark Buehrle, Jose Reyes, and Josh Johnson headlining the package going to Toronto. In addition to throwing a no-hitter for Miami in 2013, he enjoyed a career season the following year, even earning an All-Star appearance for his efforts. In 2014, he notched a 2.65 ERA in 187 innings, including three complete-game shutouts.
Unfortunately, a shoulder injury that limited him to just four starts in 2015 ultimately derailed his career. He was non-tendered by the Marlins and struggled to find work thereafter.
Alvarez pitched in affiliated ball as recently as last year, getting work primarily as a reliever with the Nationals’ Triple-A affiliate. He appeared in 24 games and posted a 5.94 ERA, striking out just 37 batters in 53 innings. Since then, he’s pitched in the Mexican League before debuting with the AA’s Milwaukee club last week.
His last Major League stint came with the Phillies in 2017, when he made three starts for the team after signing in August. He struck out just six batters and walked 11 in 14 2/3 innings. Alvarez has never been a strikeout pitcher, averaging just 4.7 K/9 for his career; that’s a rarity in today’s game, and could pose a challenge in his path back to the big leagues, though that hasn’t stopped Alvarez from succeeding in the past. And given how long it’s been since we’ve gotten a good look at his stuff, plenty could have changed in the intervening years.
It’s no secret that the 3-12 Pirates are in need of pitching of any kind. Their 5.55 team ERA is the worst mark in the National League. Their bullpen in particular has been stretched thin by injuries to the likes of Michael Feliz, Keone Kela, and Kyle Crick. Evidently, GM Ben Cherington is not entirely satisfied with his internal pitching depth, which has been tested by those injuries. We’ll hope to see Alvarez back on a Major League mound in the near future.