Should Pittsburgh Pirates extend Gerrit Cole or Pedro Alvarez?


The Pittsburgh Pirates have had a surge of extensions under Neal Hungtington and the current management. Andrew McCutchen was given a six-year, $51.5 million extension back in 2012, Starling Marte signed a six-year, $31 million extension in 2014, and, most recently, Josh Harrison was inked to a four-year, $27.3 million extension at the beginning of this season. Each of these deals includes club options. The Pirates also extended Jose Tabata and Charlie Morton under Huntington’s management. While the latter two may not have been the best decisions, the previous three look good so far. Needless to say, the Pirates have been trying to lock up players that they feel will be important pieces of a championship-caliber team.

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Two players that have been viewed at one time or another as potential big pieces of the future of Pittsburgh baseball are Gerrit Cole and Pedro Alvarez. The biggest road block to extending these two is that both are represented by Scott Boras, the most notorious agent on the planet. Typically, Boras advises his baseball clients to wait until free agency in order to maximize their value. This approach makes sense from the agent’s perspective, as free agency for a good player means more teams bidding for his services. This means higher offers and more money for both the player and Boras. Very rarely do Boras’ clients reach extensions with their current teams pre-free agency.

This may not be the case with Cole and Alvarez, however. Boras was recently at PNC Park to see his clients, including the Cubs’ Kris Bryant, in action. In a recent article in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Pirates’ reporter Travis Sawchik notes that Boras hasn’t ruled out extension possibilities for Cole and Alvarez with the Pirates. But should Huntington be open to extending either of these two?

Gerrit Cole

Cole is the youngest pitcher in the Pirates’ rotation this season, and is the second-youngest player on the 25-man roster behind Gregory Polanco. Youth is key to extending players for a team like the Pirates, which doesn’t have the budget of the bigger-market teams. Cole fits that bill. He also has a career 3.44 ERA, the lowest by any current Pirate starter, and has the most years of control left (he won’t become a free agent until after the 2019 season). He hasn’t hit arbitration yet, but if/when he does, he will become very expensive very quickly. An extension would mean controlling the cost of those arbitration years and potentially eating up free agent years as well.

So, should the Pirates offer an extension to Cole? If the money is there, I say do it. The sooner an extension can get done, the less money it will cost the team. Cole is expected to be a future anchor for the Pirate rotation, and he’s slowly getting better. He hasn’t become an ace yet, but he’s well on his way.

On the other hand, Pittsburgh is still a small market, and the team most likely doesn’t have the money to keep Cole, McCutchen, and Polanco, among others, all with long-term deals. Plus, long-term deals with pitchers are much riskier than long-term deals with position players. Just about no injury in baseball can keep a player out longer than one requiring Tommy John surgery. Is it a risk the Pirates are willing to take? Probably not for another year or two, but it’s a risk the team needs to take.

Pedro Alvarez

Pedro is a much more interesting case than Cole. While the Pirates may want to extend Cole, and money is the only barrier to that, the team might not want to extend Pedro, even if he was given to them for free. Unless Pedro hits 40 home runs this year, the team may look to trade him in the offseason. In fact, the better Pedro does, the more his trade value will go up. It’s a win-win for the Pirates if he does well in 2015. Why, though, is Pedro essentially on his way out of Pittsburgh?

Last season, Alvarez lost his starting role at third to Josh Harrison. With the extension given to Harrison, the team has committed to JHay being the long-term solution at third; most, if not all teams wouldn’t pay $27 million for a utility player. At first base, the team has a much cheaper, high-potential player in Josh Bell waiting in the minors. With the amount of money given to Bell as a bonus back in 2011, and the fact that he’s getting better as his minor league career goes on, along with his switch-hitting ability and his recent move to first base, Pedro will probably have some stiff competition next season if he remains in Pittsburgh.

It’s an unfortunate situation that Pedro finds himself in, but it’s mostly his own fault. His defensive woes last season cost him his job, not solely Harrison’s great play as a utility man. Should the Pirates extend him? No, they shouldn’t. Bell has all the talent in the world to be the future at first base, and Pedro will cost too much money to warrant his inconsistent play.

Hopefully the Pittsburgh Pirates can get a deal done with Gerrit Cole in the coming years. Pedro Alvarez may be seeing his last season in Pittsburgh, but it’s nice to know the potential is there to approach a deal with both, if need be.

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