As the slog of the off season continues the peak of rumor mongering is happening right now. As the winter meetings crawl forward tweets are sent out at blinding speeds containing rumors that will most likely end as dubious. As our fearless leader Mark Brown likes to say, the first rule of a baseball rumor is that nothing will likely happen. Yet, here I am to give you many words on one of those rumors. First, the report.
One industry source thinks non-tender of Pedro Alvarez complicated Chris Davis market. #Orioles began looking at Alvarez as alternative…
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 7, 2015
Obviously, Davis is preferred choice. But if Davis costs say, $160M and Alvarez $16M, would respective performances justify difference?— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 7, 2015
So Pedro Alvarez is the latest of the great many to have their names mentioned in the pantheon of theoretical Orioles acquisitions. Alvarez was a non-tender candidate going into the off season because of his likely $8 million price tag in arbitration so his availability probably should not surprise anyone. Alvarez is a soon to be 29 year old left handed hitting infielder. Alvarez is also a former second overall pick, something that Orioles GM Dan Duquette has often fancied himself.
As much of the off season Orioles' news and rumors has and will continue to do so, Chris Davis is at the center of this one as well. As the Orioles look to gauge Davis' market it only makes sense to locate someone who could replace him if Davis ends up on another team. In description alone, the difference between Davis and Alvarez is that Davis is a little over a year older. In production, the differences become more apparent. A table below makes the point for me.
|Chris Davis 2015||.262||.361||.300||.923||146||147||12.5%||31.0%||5.6|
|Pedro Alvarez 2015||.243||.318||.227||.787||114||114||9.8%||26.7%||0.2|
|Chris Davis Career||.255||.330||.230||.835||122||121||9.2%||31.0%||14.5|
|Pedro Alvarez Career||.236||.309||.441||.750||107||106||9.3%||29.1%||6.1|
Whatever way you slice it, Chris Davis is better. Pedro Alvarez is a replacement in the sense that he hits left handed and can stand at first base. Davis hits for a higher average, gets on base at a higher rate, hits for more power, and plays much better in the field. But, Alvarez is not without his own value. If, as Rosenthal says, Alvarez can be had for much less, the Orioles could add elsewhere such as the outfield, rotation, or bullpen. Maybe even all three. Therefore, I looked at what Alvarez can do.
Alvarez was previously a third baseman and had to move to first base due to declining abilities and a move to the DH role may be on the horizon. Alvarez somehow made 23 errors at first base in 2015 which unfathomably included 19 fielding errors. As a comparison, Davis has made 23 errors in 8 seasons playing first base. So, he does not bring much positional versatility to the table.
What he does do is hit the ball very very hard. He has averaged 29 homers per season in his career and hit 27 last year and is two years removed from hitting 36 home runs. While Alvarez struggles to make contact, when he does he makes it count. He had a 37.7 percent hard hit rate last season which is right around his career mark of 37.4 percent both of which are well above league average. He also had a 32.5 percent HR/FB ratio in 2015 which is absurdly high and unsustainable, but his career mark is 22.5% which is double the 2015 league average. Alvarez can mash some taters. And his left handed power stroke could play well in Camden Yards.
Another positive in his game is his ability to hit right handed pitching. He has a career .794 OPS against right handed pitching and over the past three seasons he has posted OPS's of .799, .770, and .842 respectively. The league OPS against righties is .723, so Alvarez is certainly more than capable of hitting against a righty. The issue is his struggles against left handed pitching. Alvarez has posted a career OPS of .601 against left-handed pitchers. That is atrociously bad and is the reason he has had four times as many at bats against right-handed pitchers.
The the three fatal flaws in Alvarez's game at the plate are his aforementioned weakness against left-handed pitchers, his penchant for ground balls, and tendency to swing and miss a lot. I already discussed the lefty problem, so lets move on to the ground balls. He had a career high 52.8 percent ground ball rate in 2015 which is only slightly higher than his career mark of 47.4 percent. Both of these are above league averages. This of course limits the amount of fly balls he hits, which as established, are far and away the most valuable thing Alvarez can do.
Now to the whiffing. He has a career swinging strike rate of 14.1 percent and posted a 13.2 percent rate in 2015 which is a ton compared to the 9.9 percent league rate in 2015. This of course limits his ability to make any contact at all, be it in the air or on the ground.
Pedro Alvarez is considered a good fit for the Orioles because he'll be cheap, he hits left handed, and he most recently played first base. He can hit right-handed pitching and he can hit some home runs. He can't hit southpaws, he probably should not play in the field anymore, he hits the ball on the ground too often, and struggles to make any kind of contact. Like I said, he'll be cheap and it's for a reason.
Much like Mark Trumbo, Alvarez has his flaws, but used under the right circumstances and in the right manner he could put up solid production for what is likely a low price. He cannot replace Chris Davis, but if he could save the Orioles some money to use on other acquisitions, he is most definitely a piece to consider.