Will Pedro Alvarez ever be the solution for the Pittsburgh Pirates at first base and what are the factors that will play into that decision? Alvarez is under a one-year contract worth $5.75 million and is still arbitration eligible next year, so what do the Pirates plan to do with him?
After coming off a career year in 2013 when he hit 36 HRs, 100 RBIs, and contended for the National League MVP, he struggled mightily in 2014 with his numbers dipping to 18 HRs and 56 RBIs before having his season cut short by injury. Of course, he also struggled defensively with 23 throwing errors which led to his switch from third base to first base last August. The Pirates are hoping that this defensive switch will ease Alvarez’s anxiety in the field, allowing him to surge again offensively and be a offensive superstar while being able to carry the team in stretches.
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In the offseason, the Pirates signed veteran former Milwaukee Brewer Corey Hart as a backup to Alvarez and somewhat of a mentor. They were hoping that Hart could give breaks to Alvarez when he inevitably got into a hitting slump (he may be able to carry a team in stretches but he also can be a rally killer with his numerous strikeouts). Another mentoring decision to help Alvarez’s transition to first was hiring former Pittsburgh Pirate first baseman Kevin Young as a special assistant to the staff. Young also made the same position move as Alvarez and made a very successful transition. He was able to give Alvarez firsthand knowledge during spring training and advise him in a more relaxed setting. This decision by the Pirates may just indicate that they are willing to take whatever steps are necessary to consider keeping Alvarez with the organization.
Another factor for the Pittsburgh Pirates to consider is the progress of budding minor league star Josh Bell. Last season the Pirates had Bell switch his position from outfield to first base, which also could be very telling sign that Pittsburgh is willing to keep Alvarez for only the next two years. Once he becomes a free agent he may be gone, though Bell may not have had a spot in the outfield made up of Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco, which is set for many years to come. Bell is an offensive juggernaut in the minor leagues thus far and the Pirates are hoping this switch will be smooth and allow Bell to continue to improve and be a part of the big squad by next year.
Pedro Alvarez could and should be a key factor in whether the Pittsburgh Pirates can unseat the National League Central champ St. Louis Cardinals within the next two years. Beyond that, I am of the belief that Pedro Alvarez may have a future excelling as a designated hitter for a team in the American League.