Jul 29, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Seattle Mariners right fielder Corey Hart (27) runs to first base on his RBI double in the fourth inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
The Pittsburgh Pirates made an out-of-nowhere acquisition after agreeing to a one-year deal with free agent Corey Hart Friday. The deal is interesting for variety of reasons, but the one that really sticks out is that it could mean the Pirates are not going to just let Pedro Alvarez slide in as the full-time starter at first base.
Alvarez is coming off a pathetic 2014 season where he hit only 18 home runs, drove in just 56 runs and struck out 113 times in 122 games. Alvarez had his season cut short when he went on the disabled list with a foot fracture. He has since healed and is back to his training program, but with the signing of Hart, it is likely he may have to fight to win his spot in the lineup. Hart is coming off an unproductive season with the Seattle Mariners. He played just 68 games, had only six homers and drove in just 21 runs. Still, after saying good-bye to Ike Davis earlier this off-season, the first base spot in the lineup looked like Alvarez’s to lose. Now, he will be challenged to earn the spot in the everyday lineup.
Alvarez was a terrible defensive player at third base. While first is nowhere near as demanding defensively, he is not fleet-of-foot. Alvarez made up for his poor defense in 2013 when he led the National League in homers, but he could not make up for his errors last season. Josh Harrison eventually took over third base full-time and Alvarez was not always guaranteed a start. The Pirates have also moved prospect Josh Bell to first base in the minors and this is also a sign that they are getting fed up with Alvarez.
Manager Clint Hurdle will definitely give Alvarez the edge in spring training to earn the starting spot at first, but if he continues to be a poor defender and his bat does not come back, he could be in a platoon position with Hart during the 2015 season.