On September 29, 2013, Henderson Alvarez ended the season for the Miami Marlins on the highest non-playoff note possible: he tossed a no-hitter. It wasn’t easy though, as he was actually in the on-deck circle in the bottom of the ninth inning when Giancarlo Stanton scored from third base on a wild pitch. Alvarez followed that up with an excellent 2014 season, winning 12 of his 30 starts and posting a solid 2.65 ERA over 187 innings. That season, combined with true ace Jose Fernandez‘s unavailability due to injury, made Alvarez the Opening Day starter for the Marlins in 2015. He began the season pitching well, providing the Fish with seven innings of six-hit, two-run ball. Unfortunately, that would be the highlight of his season.
Alvarez ended up making only three more starts, struggling mightily in each one. He threw five innings, allowing four runs on seven hits on April 12, then spent a bit over a month on the disabled list. In his first game back on May 17, he tossed 5.1 innings, allowing six runs on nine hits. Something was clearly off with “The Entertainer”, but he made one more start five days later on May 22. In what would be his final start of 2015, Alvarez lasted only five innings, serving up six runs (four earned) on six hits.
Alvarez has never been the type of pitcher who puts up huge numbers on the radar gun, instead relying on control and grounders to be effective. What little zip he had on his fastball was completely gone in his four 2015 starts, however. In 2013, he topped out at 97.7 mph and averaged 93.3 mph. The next year, he topped out at 97.2 mph and averaged 92.8 mph. In 2015, however, everything dipped. His fastest pitch of the season was only 93.5 mph, and his average fastball velocity clocked in at 91.3 mph. Clearly, something was wrong.
While he was originally placed on the DL with the benign sounding “shoulder inflammation,” it quickly became clear that there was much more going on that just a little swelling. Alvarez ended up undergoing shoulder surgery in late July and recent reports have stated that his rehab will continue long into next summer. Alvarez will not be ready for the beginning of next season, and may not be ready for some time into the season either. Because of his uncertain health and the question marks around pitchers coming back from severe shoulder injuries, Alvarez has been discussed as a non-tender candidate by the Marlins.
Alvarez made $4 million in 2015, a contract he and the Marlins had agreed upon in order to avoid arbitration. He remains arbitration eligible for 2016 and 2017, but the Marlins likely won’t want to take the chance at paying him right around the same $4 million and never seeing him pitch an inning in a Marlins uniform. While the team still has not decided on whether or not to tender Alvarez a contract, the Marlins seem intent on making a few free-agent signings this winter and they could use payroll flexibility anywhere they can get it.
Henderson Alvarez should be able to pitch in the Major Leagues sometime in the 2016 season, but at what point that will occur and how effective he will be may end up as a $4 million lottery ticket for the Miami Marlins. Whether they decide to play that lottery or not remains to be seen and presumably will be determined based on what starting pitchers the team acquires via free agency and trades.