Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Don't Extend Pedro Alvarez, Pirates

 Recently, the Atlanta Braves extended their 1B Freddie Freeman with an 8 year/$135M contract.  Freeman was just entering his first arbitration year, so this contract buys out those first three years plus five free agent years.  The cost breakdown per year is:
2014 – $5.125M (w/ $2.875M signing bonus)
2015 – $8.5M
2016 – $12.5M
2017 – $20.5M
2018 and 2019 – $21M
2020 and 2021 – $22M
He’ll finish this contract up in his age-31 season and be ready, injuries aside, to look for another 5-6 year deal probably.
Pedro Alvarez is entering his first arbitration-eligible season and negotiated a contract for $4.25M for the 2014 season.  At first blush, he and Freeman seem to be on the same salary track, so one would think that the Pirates should follow suit and think of extending their power-hitting third baseman.
But they shouldn’t.  Because Pedro Alvarez isn’t that great of an offensive player.
In fact, the Pirates should stick with Alvarez in 2014 and 2015, then re-evaluate the texture of the team.  If they are a title contender for 2016, then they should keep Alvarez and become comfortable with letting him walk after the 2016 season for draft compensation.  If they don’t think they’re a contender, then the Pirates should trade him after 2015 for a package of prospects to reload on the fly.
The thought of not having Alvarez around, a season after he hit 36 home runs, causes some fans to have panic attacks and rail against the Pirates’ for being cheap by not extending him.  Rather, it’s my contention that the Pirates would be smart to just play out the string with Alvarez and let him walk away as a free agent or trade him with one year of control left.
It’s the Linus Blanket Syndrome.  The fear of losing a security blanket, in this case all the DINGERZ that Alvarez hits, causes people to worry.  But aside from home-runs, Alvarez does not contribute much to the offense.
Let’s compare Alvarez to Freeman:
2013 StatsAlvarezFreeman
BB %7.8%10.5%
K %30.3%19.2%
wRC+ stands for Weighted Runs Created over Average.  What this means is that Alvarez created 11% more offense than an average player, while Freeman created 50% more offense than an average player.
So by raw numbers, it’s pretty obvious that Alvarez would not be worth Freeman’s contract, even though Alvarez hit 36 DINGERZ to Freeman’s 23.  There are other facets of the offensive game that Alvarez does not contribute to and, in fact, hinders thanks to his high strikeout rate.
The strange part about the Freeman deal is that I don’t think he’s worth it.  Up until the 2013 season, Freeman was just slightly above-average when it came to offense for a 1B.  His excellent 2013 season was based on a very high .371 BABIP (Batting Average on Balls in Play), where the average player is typically .300 to .310 and Freeman was a .320 career BABIP coming into 2013.  So there is some regression due to happen for Freeman, most likely, in 2014.
Also, the 2014 season will be Alvarez’s age-27 season.  The Pirates potentially control him through his age-29 season, so they may be seeing the best years he has to offer anyway, as players with 30% strikeout rates and low batting averages do not age well (Adam Dunn is Example A).
The end of the world will not occur if El Toro is not extended or if he’s allowed to leave in a few years.  Actually, it would be good business sense to not be weighted down by a potential albatross contract.


  1. No way an extension will ever happen with Alvarez, for one simple reason: Bora$$

  2. Yes and no. When his client Pedro was not starting off too hot last year, Boras floated an extension offer in the media.

    Does it happen often? No. But Carlos Gonzalez and Jered Weaver extended.

    All I'm saying is that the Pirates shouldn't get locked into a deal with a guy who as much fall-off-the-cliff potential as Alvarez.

  3. Generally agree with the final paragraph, and I don't think this particular FO will do it. Not unless they got him to sign "their deal", which his agent would almost certainly never allow.