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Pedro Alvarez is becoming unplayable at third base

Aug 3, 2014, 10:41 AM EDT

Pedro Alvarez AP

Pedro Alvarez‘s 24th error of the year didn’t cost the Pirates in Saturday’s 8-3 win over the Diamondbacks, but one wonders if it might have been the final straw. After the game, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review beat writer Rob Biertempfel quoted Pirates GM Neal Huntington saying that all options are open right now and that “everything will be taken into consideration.” Biertempfel added that he’ll be very surprised if a roster move isn’t made in an effort to give more stability at third base.

Alvarez was never a particularly strong fielder anyway, but his throwing problems have never been this bad they’re the cause of him leading the majors in errors (no one else has more than 18). He’s also been a disappointment offensively, with a modest 15 homers and .402 slugging percentage this year, though his OBP is up to .322 at least (he had a .296 OBP while hitting 36 homers and driving in 100 runs last year).

The Pirates declined to move Alvarez to first base last winter, even though they had no luck trying to replace Justin Morneau in free agency or through a trade; they opened the season with Gaby Sanchez at first and later traded for Ike Davis. Having Alvarez replace Davis now is a possibility, but it wouldn’t necessarily make the team any better. Alvarez is currently hitting .247/.338/.434 with 37 RBI in 279 AB against righties, compared to .250/.365/.390 with 33 RBI in 236 AB for Davis. And Alvarez probably would be a downgrade defensively, at least initially. Neither should be playing against left-handers.

What is a given is that the Pirates are best off with Josh Harrison at third base right now. Harrison’s .330/.341/.498 line is almost certainly a fluke, but he’s so much better defensively than Alvarez that he doesn’t have to hit like that to remain an upgrade. The Pirates, though, like to use Harrison at other positions as well, so they may look to add another third base option rather than commit to Harrison there. They also have former White Sox prospect Brent Morel up, but he seems unlikely to stick after hitting a subpar .246/.318/.342 in Triple-A. He’s 3-for-16 so far in the majors.

UPDATE: The roster move has come, though it’s probably not quite what Pirates fans were looking for: Jayson Nix was signed to a one-year deal and Morel was sent back down to Triple-A. Nix had just been let go by Tampa Bay after hitting .274/.341/.411 in 190 at-bats for Triple-A Durham.

  1. unclemosesgreen - Aug 3, 2014 at 11:03 AM

    The Bucs’ corner infield issues are a good example of the perils and pitfalls of trying to win with baseball’s 4th lowest team salary. Every decision is so important, and the margin between getting into the playoffs or not is so very small to begin with.

    As with the A’s and Rays as well, sometimes you have to roll the dice on some flawed, lower-cost players and hope for the best.

  2. penguins87and71 - Aug 3, 2014 at 11:07 AM

    It’s obviously mental for Pedro. I think they need to put him on the DL, and get him away from the game for a bit. They also need have a sports psychologist to sit down with Pedro and just talk about his issues. I feel bad for Pedro, I really do, I know it’s not his fault, his trying his best, but you just can’t play him down the stretch, his to much of a liability.

    • Old Gator - Aug 3, 2014 at 11:09 AM

      “Ninety percent of baseball is half mental.”
      – the Immortal Yogi

    • renaado - Aug 3, 2014 at 11:22 AM

      Certainly a mental issue for Alvarez, he better find his pace there at 3rd soon, if he wants to stay at his current position… A good contributor in the plate he may be, but a struggle in defense is also an issue that can’t be ignored.

  3. Ayase Yano (綾瀬市 矢野) - Aug 3, 2014 at 11:08 AM

    24 errors!?

    This guy should be demoted by now.

    • Old Gator - Aug 3, 2014 at 11:12 AM

      And replaced by who? If the Bucs had any truly viable options they would have dealt with it already. In any case, demotion wouldn’t be the best course of action (assuming by “demotion” you mean being sent down to the minors, the sense in which it is usually applied in the American language), but benching him and taking off the pressure for a while, and working with the infield coach in the meantime, would probably be a better way to approach it.

      • Ayase Yano (綾瀬市 矢野) - Aug 3, 2014 at 11:27 AM

        Pardon my comment Old Gator, Pouliot-san just explained it below. Tough break for them Pirates.

      • scatterbrian - Aug 3, 2014 at 12:30 PM

        Chase Headley and Martin Prado were available.

  4. Matthew Pouliot - Aug 3, 2014 at 11:13 AM

    I should have mentioned this somewhere in there… Alvarez is out of options, so the Pirates can’t simply send him down.

  5. navyeoddavee9 - Aug 3, 2014 at 11:20 AM

    Alvarez $4,250, 000
    Davis $3, 500, 000
    Pirates payroll is among the lowest, yes, but 1st and 3rd are making money, Alvarez top 12, Davis around top 16, so the payroll is not the excuse at 1st and especially 3rd

    • dsaverno - Aug 3, 2014 at 11:35 AM

      If everyone on the Pirates roster made the same as Alvarez, they would still only have the 17th highest payroll, a million dollars or so behind the Brewers. So, no, they really aren’t making that much on a comparative basis.

  6. jwbiii - Aug 3, 2014 at 11:31 AM

    Heh. The Pirates just signed Jayson Nix. Probably not the answer.

  7. navyeoddavee9 - Aug 3, 2014 at 11:45 AM

    Agreed but it’s not a pay roil issue with Alvarez it’s a mental issue

  8. jerze2387 - Aug 3, 2014 at 12:08 PM

    Theres not a lot of options now that the deadline passed…only viable ones i can think of that might be available would be Luis Valbuena or Conor Gillaspie (If the sox want to open it up for Davidson or see what Semien can do every day), but I doubt theyd make it through waivers. Maybe Godon beckham makes it through and they can see if he turns it around, but theres not many 3B options and the pirates dont have any 3B minor league depth to speak of. Could end up being d’arnaud, or hague, either of which theyd probably be better off letting Alvarez work through it

  9. corvetteman6 - Aug 3, 2014 at 4:11 PM

    It’s unfortunate that ownership and the modern fan in Pittsburgh suffer from tunnel vision. The time to trade Alvarez was this past off season but like everything else, Huntington did nothing while local sports writers talked about what an incredible talent this guy was
    Dear God
    The guy was a bum at third from the outset. Offensively, he’s incapable of hitting a curve (in fact, you’d have to be a moron to throw him any other pitch—and don’t throw it for a strike)
    Now his value is—reclamation project
    This team cannot win with holes at first and third, with a weak bench and with a shoddy rotation

  10. onbucky96 - Aug 3, 2014 at 4:39 PM

    Alveraz is a Boras guy. How is this the “Steak Dinner” Scotty?

  11. westcoastredbird - Aug 3, 2014 at 7:25 PM

    Cardinal pitching has kept this guy in baseball for the last 3 years.

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