As we near the end of January, players are just a month away from reporting to warm climates for spring training. Free agents who are still out on the market enter desperation mode to find a club that will sign them while general managers try to find the best deal to fill the final needs to drive their team to success.
One of the most impactful bats still in free agency that could come cheap to any team is that of Pedro Alvarez. The former number-two overall pick has spent his entire professional career with the Pittsburgh Pirates in the National League up until this point. While Alvarez started his career out well in Pittsburgh being the everyday third baseman for the club, things started to spiral downhill after his All-Star season in 2013.
Alvarez has logged three seasons in which he’s played more than 150 games, and in each of those years he hit at least 27 home runs. That’s what a team is going to get with Alvarez, a lot of pop and little contact. The Vanderbilt alum has just a .236 batting average in his six seasons in the show but holds a career slugging percentage of .441. The main reason for Alvarez’s downfall with the Pirates was his defensive, as he was moved to first base in 2015 after three straight seasons of 25 or more errors over at the hot corner.
So when you have a guy who can mash the baseball and can’t field, move him to the American League.
The best fit for Alvarez at this point in time could be north of the border with the reigning AL East champion Toronto Blue Jays. Alvarez would join the top slugging team in baseball from a season ago, and could add an extra element of intimidation in the Blue Jays lineup.
Alvarez could find himself competing for the starting first base job with Justin Smoak, who started 110 games at first for the Blue Jays a season ago. With Chris Colabello slotted as the number one first baseman on the Blue Jays depth chart at the moment, a signing of Alvarez could move Colabello to a thin left field position for Toronto. Also as Alvarez bats left-handed he could serve as a dangerous element in a heavy right-handed lineup.
Ultimately if a team is concerned about Alvarez defensively, he could be slotted as the designated hitter, but that would force All-Star Edwin Encarnacion to play the field in the case of Toronto.
Another landing spot for Alvarez could very well be in Houston. The Astros slugged their way into the playoffs last season being second only to the Blue Jays in home runs and slugging percentage in the regular season. Houston lost first baseman Chris Carter to Milwaukee this offseason via free agency after he belted 24 home runs for the Astros a season ago but failed to reach the Mendoza line with a batting average of just .199.
The Astros are a team that focuses heavily on the long ball but may be hesitant to sign Alvarez to play first base for a couple of reasons. Alvarez committed 23 errors at first base last season compared to just eight errors from Carter. In addition Alvarez’s the shaky fielding, Houston’s highly coveted first-base prospect Jon Singleton is expected to take the starting job at first base, although he’s showed very little success at the plate in just 114 big league games.
It would be unorthodox for the Astros to go out and sign a free agent when they’re built through their farm system but landing Alvarez on a short-term contract could give them the boost they need for this season.
Evan Gattis would be the DH for Houston come opening day at this point in time, but throughout the lengthy 162-game season injuries occur and players need days off. Given Gattis’ versatility to play the outfield, Alvarez could slide into the DH role if Gattis needs a day off or sees time in left field.
If the Astros are willing to trade off some bad defensive play for the long ball, which they enjoy so much, Alvarez would be a good fit in Houston. Carter was a big piece to the Astros success last season even with a poor batting average, and they’ll have to find some way to replace his production, which they’re hoping Singleton can do this season.
Even if El Toro doesn’t end up on one of these two clubs, it would still be ideal for him to land in the American League where he doesn’t have to play the field every day and can become part of a power-hitting lineup.