Pedro Alvarez

Pirates sticking with struggling Pedro Alvarez at third base

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Pedro Alvarez hit .191 in 74 games for the Pirates last season, wasn’t much better in 35 games back at Triple-A, and has seen his struggles carry over this spring, but the Pirates aren’t giving up on the 25-year-old former No. 2 overall pick as their starting third baseman.

General manager Neal Huntington told Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review that “the rumors of him starting at Triple-A have never come from the Pirates” and is not something the team is considering.

By trading for Casey McGehee the Pirates brought in a potential alternative to Alvarez at third base, although McGehee is coming off a tremendously disappointing season himself. Alvarez is a left-handed hitter and McGehee is a right-handed hitter, so Huntington did say that platooning them early in the season is an option for manager Clint Hurdle and from there it’s easy to see the playing time shift based on production.

Either way, Alvarez’s stock has plummeted since the Pirates picked him second overall and Baseball America twice ranked him as a top-15 prospect in 2009 and 2010, as the combination of strikeouts, poor defense, and injuries repeatedly set him back. Tremendous raw power is what’s keeping the Pirates invested.

Phillies sign outfielder Michael Saunders

CLEVELAND, OH - MAY 3: Michael Saunders #21 of the Toronto Blue Jays runs to first after being walked during the third inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field on May 3, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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The Phillies have signed free agent outfielder Michael Saunders.

Saunders was an All-Star in 2016 due to his wonderful start, but he cratered in the second half of the season. Overall is numbers looked good — he hit 24 homers and posted a line of .253/.338/.478, but his second half line was .178/.282/.357 in 58 games. He’s not the best defender around either.

The Phillies could use him, however, and if he has another red hot first half, there’s a decent chance they could flip him if they wanted to.

Jose Bautista and the Blue Jays nearing a two-year, $35-40 million deal

Toronto Blue Jays Jose Bautista flips his bat after hitting a three-run homer during seventh inning game 5 American League Division Series baseball action in Toronto on Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2015. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
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It was first reported that the Blue Jays and Jose Bautista were close to a deal last night. Now Ken Rosenthal reports that the deal is near completion. It will likely a two-year contract in the $35-40 million range.

Bautista had a tough 2016, hitting .234/.366/.452 with 22 home runs and 69 RBI, and some clubs likely considered a long-term deal for the 36-year-old too risky, this leading to the relative lack of reported interest in Bautista by other clubs. But back-to-back ALCS appearances by the Jays and the success and popularity Bautista has experienced in Toronto make his re-signing there a pretty sensible move for all involved.

The Jays, who already lost Edwin Encarnacion to free agency, get their slugger back on a short term deal. Unlike anyone else, they don’t have to give up the draft pick attached to him via the qualifying offer. Bautista, in turn, will make, on average, more than he would’ve made on the qualifying offer if he would’ve accepted it and a raise over the $14 million he made in 2016.