There’s nothing that the Orioles love quite so much as a player who strikes out a lot, hits a bunch of home runs, and should only ever serve as a first baseman or designated hitter. They had three such players on last year’s team and now, with Pedro Alvarez being re-signed to a minor league deal, they have all three of them back in the organization.
It’s only a minor league deal. My general rule is that it’s not worth either getting panicked or excited about a minor league deal. If a specific set of circumstances plays out where the player gets a chance to come up to MLB - either because there was an injury to someone else or because he’s hitting so well he can’t be ignored - that can be dealt with down the road.
For Alvarez in particular, it seems almost impossible that he would make the MLB roster unless there’s some kind of injury we don’t know about. That’s because FanRag’s Jon Heyman, who first reported that a deal was close, says that Alvarez will be working as an outfielder. You may have just laughed when you read that sentence.
The left-handed hitting Alvarez should never play against left-handed pitchers. That’s all there is to that. The Orioles are already set with left-handed hitting outfielders who should maybe never play against lefty pitchers. New acquisition Seth Smith is in this category for a certainty. Hyun Soo Kim deserves more of a chance against lefties, but he may be in this category as well.
The Orioles are also already set with first baseman/designated hitter types between Chris Davis, Mark Trumbo, and Trey Mancini, but they had Davis and Trumbo last year too and that didn’t stop them from signing Alvarez to an MLB deal at right around this point in the 2016 spring training season.
Even the Orioles couldn’t possibly be this crazy, could they? Well, maybe, and so until it becomes clear Alvarez won’t be immediately in the MLB picture, if you’re a little nervous about this, that’s OK. I will be too. But don’t treat it as a guarantee that he’s going to be on the Opening Day roster right now.
More likely, Alvarez is going to be ticketed for Norfolk as injury insurance of some kind. There is no one worth worrying about down there who might lose playing time because of an Alvarez outfield experiment.
Two of the three guys who got a lot of time in the outfield at Norfolk last year, Christian Walker and Dariel Alvarez, are out of the picture. There are no prospects to block in the high minors, so it doesn’t much matter if Pedro Alvarez patrols left field or right field or whatever field for the Tides. He’s not taking time from anyone who matters.
For all of his faults and all of the challenges his presence may create for roster flexibility, the fact is that Alvarez hit 22 home runs in only 376 plate appearances last year. He slumped in April and May but revved up in the second half of the season when many of the other hitters were wilting.
If Alvarez makes the MLB club, he’ll earn $2 million this season, with incentives that could add as much as $3.5 million onto the contract. Alvarez has a very particular set of skills that can have value to an MLB team in the right circumstances. The price is right, though the fit for the current roster is not.