Alvarez, Decker non-tendered by Pirates
PITTSBURGH -- Unable to find a trade partner, the Pirates parted ways with Pedro Alvarez on Wednesday night by not tendering him a contract for next season. Alvarez, whose defensive struggles negated the production of his powerful bat over the past few seasons, is now a free agent.
The Pirates hoped to trade Alvarez this offseason, first searching for a suitable deal and eventually seeking any club that might take him for a lesser return. Alvarez -- the second overall pick in the 2008 Draft -- was projected by MLB Trade Rumors to make $8.1 million in his final year of arbitration, but the Pirates couldn't find a taker and instead elected to cut ties with him prior to Wednesday's 11:59 p.m. ET deadline to tender contracts for next season.
The Pirates also non-tendered outfielder Jaff Decker shortly before the deadline, leaving them with 38 players on their 40-man roster. They tendered contracts to everyone else who required such a move, including their eight other arbitration-eligible players: Neil Walker, Francisco Cervelli, Mark Melancon, Chris Stewart, Tony Watson, Jared Hughes, Jordy Mercer and Jeff Locke.
But their most notable move was releasing Alvarez, a polarizing player with immense power potential but no clear position on the field. Alvarez had been the subject of trade rumors since last offseason, but no deal emerged. Rather than run the risk of Alvarez taking up a significant portion of their 2016 payroll, they let him go for no compensation.
"Obviously, if there was a team that was interested in taking him and giving us something of value, that's by far the first choice. We worked hard to see if that was out there," general manager Neal Huntington said. "We worked hard to try to find a place for him this offseason and were unable to return something of value, and then ultimately were not even able to find a landing spot for him to take him through the arbitration process."
"Pedro Alvarez grew up as a Pirate, and he and his wife, Keli, were active members of our organization and our community for the seven seasons that Pedro was with us," team president Frank Coonelly said in a statement. "Pedro also made major contributions to the success that we have had over the last several years. We thank him for his contributions and wish he, Keli and his young daughter all the best as Pedro continues his baseball career."
Alvarez, a 2013 All-Star and Silver Slugger Award winner, hit .236/.309/.441 with 131 home runs in his six seasons with the Pirates. He leaves Pittsburgh ranked 13th on the franchise's all-time home run list. He led the team with 27 homers and drove in 77 runs last season, but his defensive deficiencies overshadowed his streaky power hitting.
Throwing issues forced Alvarez to move from third base to first last season, but he never appeared comfortable at the position. He committed 23 errors in 124 games, by far the most for any first baseman. According to Defensive Runs Saved, his defense at first cost the Pirates 14 runs on the year.
"Very unexpected. He worked really hard to transition to first base," Huntington said. "Despite the work of our staff and despite the work of Pedro, we were still experiencing fairly significant challenges. [There was] some reason for hope that he could become an adequate first baseman in time, but as we looked at the considerable dollars that it would have taken to go through the arbitration process ... we felt again that we were better served to reallocate the resources elsewhere on the club."
While Alvarez will likely find a home quickly as an American League designated hitter, the Pirates must turn their attention toward replacing him. Their long-term solution appears to be Josh Bell, MLB Pipeline's top-ranked first-base prospect, and their current options include Michael Morse and the recently acquired Jake Goebbert.
"There's no doubt in our minds that [Alvarez] could go out and have a very good season for someone," Huntington said. "We just felt that where we are, we were better served to go in a different direction."