Pedro Alvarez’s 24th error of the year didn’t cost the Pirates in Saturday’s 8-3 win over the Diamondbacks, but one wonders if it might have been the final straw. After the game, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review beat writer Rob Biertempfel quoted Pirates GM Neal Huntington saying that all options are open right now and that “everything will be taken into consideration.” Biertempfel added that he’ll be very surprised if a roster move isn’t made in an effort to give more stability at third base.
Alvarez was never a particularly strong fielder anyway, but his throwing problems have never been this bad they’re the cause of him leading the majors in errors (no one else has more than 18). He’s also been a disappointment offensively, with a modest 15 homers and .402 slugging percentage this year, though his OBP is up to .322 at least (he had a .296 OBP while hitting 36 homers and driving in 100 runs last year).
The Pirates declined to move Alvarez to first base last winter, even though they had no luck trying to replace Justin Morneau in free agency or through a trade; they opened the season with Gaby Sanchez at first and later traded for Ike Davis. Having Alvarez replace Davis now is a possibility, but it wouldn’t necessarily make the team any better. Alvarez is currently hitting .247/.338/.434 with 37 RBI in 279 AB against righties, compared to .250/.365/.390 with 33 RBI in 236 AB for Davis. And Alvarez probably would be a downgrade defensively, at least initially. Neither should be playing against left-handers.
What is a given is that the Pirates are best off with Josh Harrison at third base right now. Harrison’s .330/.341/.498 line is almost certainly a fluke, but he’s so much better defensively than Alvarez that he doesn’t have to hit like that to remain an upgrade. The Pirates, though, like to use Harrison at other positions as well, so they may look to add another third base option rather than commit to Harrison there. They also have former White Sox prospect Brent Morel up, but he seems unlikely to stick after hitting a subpar .246/.318/.342 in Triple-A. He’s 3-for-16 so far in the majors.
UPDATE: The roster move has come, though it’s probably not quite what Pirates fans were looking for: Jayson Nix was signed to a one-year deal and Morel was sent back down to Triple-A. Nix had just been let go by Tampa Bay after hitting .274/.341/.411 in 190 at-bats for Triple-A Durham.
Steve Gilbert of MLB.com reports that the Diamondbacks and outfielder A.J. Pollock have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a two-year extension. The deal is worth $10.25 million, per ESPN’s Buster Olney.
Pollock was arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter. The 28-year-old requested $3.9 million and was offered $3.65 million by the Diamondbacks when figures were exchanged on January 15. It wasn’t much of a gap, but the two sides were ultimately able to find common ground on a multi-year deal. Pollock will still be under team control for one more year after this new deal expires.
Pollock is coming off a breakout 2015 where he batted .315/.367/.498 with 20 home runs, 76 RBI, and 39 stolen bases over 157 games. He ranked sixth among position players with 7.4 WAR (Wins Above Replacement), according to Baseball Reference.
The Blue Jays and 2015 American League Most Valuable Player Josh Donaldson have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a two-year, $29 million contract, reports Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca.
Donaldson was arbitration-eligible for the second time this winter. He filed for $11.8 million and was offered $11.35 million by the Blue Jays when figures were exchanged last month. It wasn’t a big gap, but since the Blue Jays are a “file and trial” team, they bring these cases to an arbitration hearing unless a multi-year deal can be worked out. As opposed to last winter, they were able to avoid a hearing this time around. Donaldson was originally a Super Two player, so he’ll still have one year of arbitration-eligibility once this two-year deal is completed.
The 30-year-old Donaldson is coming off a monster first season in Toronto where he batted .297/.371/.568 with 41 homers while leading the American League with 123 RBI.
Brandon Belt filed for $7.5 million and was offered $5.3 million by the Giants when arbitration figures were exchanged last month. That’s a pretty sizable gap. While there’s still a chance that an agreement will be worked out at the last minute, Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that an arbitration hearing is scheduled for Wednesday.
The Giants haven’t gone to an arbitration hearing since 2004, when they lost to catcher A.J. Pierzynski. Schulman hears from one person involved that because of the gap between Belt and the Giants, there’s a real chance this will break that string and require a hearing.
Belt batted .280/.356/.478 with 18 home runs and 68 RBI over 137 games in 2015, but he dealt with concussion symptoms for the second straight season. An arbitration hearing could bring some unpleasant conversation to the surface.
The Padres have inked veteran utility player Skip Schumaker to a minor league contract, per FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal.
Schumaker, who turned 36 last week, has spent the last two seasons with the Reds. He batted .242/.306/.336 with one home run and 21 RBI over 131 games last season while making starts between all three outfield spots and second base. Cincinnati cut ties with him in November after declining a $2.5 million club option for 2016.
While Schumaker had to settle for a non-guaranteed deal here, it would be no surprise to see him land a bench job with the Padres come Opening Day.