Pittsburgh Pirates: What to make of Henderson Alvarez Signing

(Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
(Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) /

The Pittsburgh Pirates were looking to add pitching depth.  They have turned to a former All-Star who has not pitched since 2017.

Things could not have gotten off to a worse start for the Pittsburgh Pirates and their new staff. The team currently has the worst winning percentage in Major League Baseball.  A big reason why is because the pitching staff has dealt with a number of circumstances.  This includes injuries, Covid-19, and suspensions.

Coming into the year, the starting rotation was already expected to be the weak point of the team.  The team knew they would be without Jameson Taillon and before Summer Camp, it was announced Chris Archer would not pitch in 2020 due to thoracic outlet surgery.  On top of that, the team lost their top pitching prospect Mitch Keller along with their opening day starter Joe Musgrove to injuries over the last few weeks.

The bullpen has not had much better luck.  The team’s presumed closer, Keone Kela, looks to just be joining the active roster.  Apparently, he was having some issues with Covid results.  Then there is Edgar Santana, who was returning from Tommy-John surgery.  He looked very good in the spring but was handed an 80 game suspension for PED use.

Then came the season and things just got worse.  The bullpen as a whole looked like a mess from Opening Day.  Kyle Crick was really struggling and has since been placed on the Injured List.  The one positive out of the bullpen in the early going was Nick Burdi, who is now slated to miss the season.  The good news is that it sounds like he will not need Tommy-John surgery and he should be back next season.

All this led to the Pittsburgh Pirates looking for pitching depth, leading the front office to Henderson Alvarez.  Alvarez is a 30-year-old pitcher who has not thrown a Major League inning since 2017.  Once considered to be one of the up and coming arms in the National League, Alvarez has suffered a series of injuries that have sidelined him for the better part of the last five years or so.

Alvarez debuted with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2011 and got a full season under his belt with them in 2012.  That offseason he was part of the mega-trade that sent Jose Reyes and Josh Johnson to Toront with Alvarez and others going to Miami.  Once reaching Miami, Alvarez started to blossom into a front line type arm.  He threw a no-hitter in 2013 and followed it up in 2014 with an All-Star nod.  Overall, he pitched to a 2.65 ERA across 187 innings.

None of this matters.  Alvarez has not pitched in the Majors since 2017 and has struggled in his limited minor league innings.  Still, Alvarez has continued to work to get back to the big leagues.  The thing that did it for him was a recent bullpen that saw his fastball sitting 94-96 and touch 98.  Further reports are that the pitch with velocity is the two-seamer, which makes Alvarez an intriguing arm.

That is the keyword here, Alvarez is intriguing.  Nothing more.  The Pittsburgh Pirates have the worst record in baseball. If you thought they were going to go out and make a substantial move to turn it around, then you must not pay that much attention to the Bucs.

Alvarez will likely head to Altoona to build up.  In addition to that, the team will get a closer look at him and see what his best option will be as a pitcher.  What is there to lose?  If he gets hurt or never makes it to the main roster, who cares?  If he makes it and does not pitch effectively, who cares, who really has on the staff?

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On the flip side, if he can sustain his health and hold that velocity he could provide something for the team.  Whether he starts or relieves, it does not hurt to give him a chance.  Contract details have not come out yet, but one has to wonder if there will be a club-option for 2021, just in case Alvarez does get back to being a Major League pitcher.