While the Pirates are on the verge of slipping out of the race for the division title and falling out of the second Wild Card spot, Pedro Alvarez's days in Pittsburgh could be coming to an end.
Alvarez has 21 home runs and he knocked in 60. Pretty good numbers, right? Not when you look at the whole package. The majority of those numbers have come during streaks. While all players have hot streaks, Alvarez has two or three a year and accumulates the majority of those home runs and RBI during that time.
The only consistency we have seen from Alvarez is how overmatched he appears at the plate. He seems to guess wrong almost every pitch. He swings at balls and takes strikes. To say he is lost at the plate is not an overstatement. I can honestly say that I can't recall a player in a starting lineup who hurts his team as much as Alvarez does. This may seem unfair and harsh, but I am being honest. If Alvarez performed this way in a major market, he would already be in the minor leagues or watching from the dugout.
Tonight's game against the Dodgers was a prime example of the majority of his games this season. He had three strikeouts and a weakly hit ground ball to first base with a runner in scoring position. His fielding also came into question.
In a fourth inning that saw the Dodgers score three runs, the wind was taken right out of the Pirates' sails. Alvarez couldn't catch a relatively routine line drive. For whatever reason, the batter (Matt Kemp) was awarded a hit. It was a gift hit. To be fair, Walker didn't use two hands when attempting to tag Kemp on the bases, and the umpire said Kemp was safe because Walker didn't have control of the ball. If Alvarez made the initial possible out, the next play wouldn't have even been an issue.
Alvarez has had fielding issues all year. While he makes great plays from time to time, his poor defense outweighs those other above-average plays.
The question remains: What should the Pirates and Neal Huntington do regarding Alvarez?
I say deal him when the winter meeting roll around. Let's face it, coming into tonight's game, Alvarez's career batting average was .232. He is now hitting just around .230. The Pirates third baseman has been up and down in the minors since his debut in 2010. This is Pedro's first full season.
Let's remember that Alvarez went to Vanderbilt and didn't turn pro until he was 23 years old. He is now 25 and doesn't show any signs of progressing. In fact, you can make the argument that he played his best baseball when the Pirates first brought him up in the middle of that 2010 season.
While Huntington would have to weigh his options and discuss which direction to go, I have an example trade. I think it makes sense for both teams.
Chase Headley had been discussed in trade rumors prior to the non-waiver trade deadline. The Pirates were one of many teams rumored to be interested, as Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported. While Headley wasn't traded, he also has not been signed to an extension with San Diego.
It has also been stated (via Buster Olney of ESPN) that the Padres felt they could get more for Headley during the offseason rather than the trade deadline. If that's the case, why not center a trade around Alvarez and Headley? Alvarez would get a fresh start in San Diego, something that would help him. The Padres would get a player under contract for a few more years. The Pirates would get a player who can take Alvarez's place at third. Finally, Headley would put up more power numbers in PNC, compared to Petco.
The Pirates can't afford to keep up this project with Alvarez. On the surface, Alvarez put up respectable power numbers to this point. The Pirates should use the offseason to try and use the value he has now, and deal him. The Pirates can't put up with no production in the sixth spot of the batting order. This is becoming more and more apparent the longer this season goes.
I do realize that there are a number of Alvarez fans out there, and they won't like this article. I'm not solely centering on Alvarez for the Pirates' poor play as of late. There is enough blame to go around, including the starting pitching (McDonald) and some issues with the bullpen.
I honestly hope that I am wrong and Alvarez puts the Pirates on his back and helps them toward a playoff berth this season. That being said, I believe it would be wise to send Alvarez somewhere else unless he completely turns it around these last seven weeks of the season.
If the first four and a half months of the season are any indication, it is hard to imagine Alvarez turning it around. I really do hope I'm wrong though.