Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez’s throwing issues have gotten so bad–including an MLB-leading 21 of his 23 errors on throws–that Jenn Menendez of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette reports the team is starting to look into “the mental component to find the root of the problem.”
Alvarez has always been a poor defender at third base and eventually moving across the diamond to first base has long been discussed as a possibility. Prior to this season he committed 85 errors in 3,965 innings at third base, or one every 47 innings. This season he’s made an error every 34 innings. Ultimate Zone Rating pegs him as a career-worst 9.4 runs below average this year.
An easy solution would be moving Alvarez to first base, but a) the Pirates may not want to do that in the middle of a season, b) Ike Davis has been reasonably productive there since they acquired him from the Mets, and c) Alvarez’s current .707 OPS would look even worse at first base than it does at first base. They have to fix him defensively and, if they can’t, they have to decide if his 30-homer power is worth putting up with the low batting average, low on-base percentage, and tons of strikeouts from first base.
The Dodgers have pulled off their first blockbuster trade of the offseason, sending Brandon McCarthy, Scott Kazmir, Charlie Culberson, Adrian Gonzalez and cash considerations to the Braves for Matt Kemp, per announcements from both teams. The Braves are set to designate Gonzalez for assignment on Monday, making him a free agent.
Kemp, 33, had a down year with the Braves in 2017, hitting a career-low -0.5 fWAR in 115 games with the club. At the plate, he slashed a modest .276/.318/.463 with 19 home runs and a .781 OPS through 467 plate appearances, but was hampered by a nagging left hamstring strain through most of the season. This will be his 10th campaign with the Dodgers.
Whether or not Kemp can rebound during his second stint in Los Angeles is almost beside the point, however. The deal is effectively a salary dump to end all salary dumps. Offloading multiple one-year contracts for McCarthy, Kazmir and Gonzalez should bring the Dodgers back under the $197 million luxury tax threshold and position them to make a run at some of the big fish in next year’s free agent pool. It’s also worth noting that they may not keep Kemp around for long — per Ken Gurnick of MLB.com, the club appears as likely to flip the veteran outfielder as they are to use him. As for the Braves, they not only rid themselves of the $43 million due Kemp through 2020, but added some rotation and infield depth with McCarthy and Culberson and can now give top prospect Ronald Acuna a legitimate tryout in left field.