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The Orioles need to find a way to bring back Pedro Alvarez

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In some ways, Pedro Alvarez had his best season ever in 2016. He shouldn’t cost much, and he should help the O’s keep hitting homers.

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As is Dan Duquette’s modus operandi, where some of his player personnel tinkering may fail spectacularly, he finds ways to balance the scale between Travis Snider and Nelson Cruz.

His most recent exhibits of “hmmm, OK that definitely won’t work” include the likes of waiver acquisition Drew Stubbs, who at his very best, was a not very good pinch runner. There was Logan Ondrusek, he of the 9.95 ERA/5.36 FIP in seven appearances, reminded us why he hadn’t thrown a big league pitch in two years.

And there is certainly enough room to talk about Wade Miley and Yovani Gallardo, but watching baseball games that don’t include the Orioles makes the Wild Card loss sting that much more, so let’s go to our happy place. We need it.

Finding solace in the Birds’ early postseason exit is knowing that Hyun Soo Kim, who Duquette signed for $7M over two years, established himself as a fan favorite. Thanks to a very solid rookie 113 OPS+ in 346 plate appearances, not only was his selfless plate presence a much-needed change of pace, but he’s just the cutest darn thing you’ve ever seen! Trading Steve Clevenger, who, as the Joker would say, used a “very poor choice of words” in describing today’s racial climate, netted the Orioles the club’s fourth-consecutive home run king in Mark Trumbo. Though Trumbo looked like Happy Gilmore on skates out in right field, it isn’t hard to formulate the many number of ways the O’s won that trade.

Though the jury was still in the process of voire dire back in March, the unflattering nature of Pedro Alvarez being brought aboard meant a few things. It surely forced Trumbo into an outfield role he, as we would soon find, had no business playing.

Having Alvarez also limited the number of hands Buck Showalter would be able to deal on a day-to-day basis, given his extreme defensive incapabilities. Only being able to carry 25 players, an active major league roster can only benefit from having players with a multitude of skill-sets, a notion the Chicago Cubs continue to prove.

Regardless of his inherent faults and a sluggish start to this season, Alvarez not only exceeded his mild expectations, but according to various interpretations, he had his best season yet.

Noting the aforementioned slow start, Alvarez was awfully tough to make a case for through May. In his first 119 plate appearances, Alvarez only managed a .195/.295/.350 slash, carrying a well below average 71 wRC+. As encouraging as his 12.6 BB% was in the first two months, Alvarez’s fly balls weren’t turning into home runs, and his pronounced ground ball tendencies weren’t cutting it. Then the flip switched.

Alvarez eventually adjusted to the American League, where his contact became that much more efficiently dispersed. Hitting .269/.334/.568 with a 138 wRC+ over the last four months, Alvarez accounted for 0.8 fWAR of his seasonal 1.1fWAR total in the second half. According to Fangraphs’ valuation formula, tabulating the cost per win, Alvarez was worth right at $9M this season, though Duquette’s waiting game saw his price discount to a bargain sum of $5.8M in 2016. Alvarez far exceeded his proposed value, much to do with him becoming the slugging threat that the Orioles hoped he would be.

Walking into an offseason where Matt Wieters and the Orioles are “tens of millions of dollars apart” in negotiations, while Mark Trumbo is more than likely to receive and reject a qualifying offer, there’s going to be heavy questions in need of soft answers.

The O’s are probably locked into next year’s starting rotation which is prepared to be backloaded with inefficient expenses. There’ll be arbitration raises for the likes of Manny Machado, Zach Britton, Chris Tillman and Jonathan Schoop, where projects those four alone to combine for a cost of $36.6M.

Add in the already locked in $96.0M between the chunk of the roster and the Orioles are probably not going to have too much wiggle room to navigate this offseason, as our brave leader Mark Brown wrote a few days ago in much more depth.

Imagining most of the starting lineup is already in place with a few holes to spare, Dan Duquette is going to have to get funky in order to replicate the home run formula he so enjoys. Wieters’ presumable exit will have a bigger impact than most want to believe and though Trumbo can’t be expected to repeat his 47 home runs going forward, he’s going to hit a few bombs somewhere next year. It’s tough to look at the re-acquisition of Alvarez without the scope of the projected 2017 payroll, but El Toro did some things to consider the worth of his return.

In no year prior to this did El Toro ever combine his power with his underrated batting eye, fueling a career-best .826 OPS. His .255 ISO and 117 wRC+ were also his best ever marks in his six full seasons. Among lefties against righties with at least 300 plate appearances in such situations, Alvarez’s .271 ISO was 12th best in baseball while his 123 wRC+ was 25th highest.

At the risk of adding a few more dollars to what will probably top this year’s record-setting payroll, the Orioles would have first dibs in retaining some value they’re prepared to lose, and keep someone who returns some of the biggest bang for his specialty.

Alvarez may be unfeasible, but who really knows how this winter is set to play out. From a sheer viewing perspective, I liked watching him hit, despite the swings and misses. I mean, aren’t we kind of numb to it at this point? He’s going to provide value in a market where his value may still yet be stealthily attainable, even in a ghostly free-agent crop. It may not work, but I would like for it to work.

I really, really liked when the bull lowered his horns.