Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez will never find himself in the lineup for his glove. He swatted an NL-leading 36 home runs with a 115 OPS+ last season, and this year he has 15 long balls in 103 games. With power so hard to find, Alvarez's pop is plenty useful to the Buccos.
His defense, however, is a liability. It always has been, really, but now things have gotten to the point where the team is considering moving Alvarez across the diamond to first base. Alvarez has started only four of the team's last 13 games and is not in Sunday's starting lineup either.
#Pirates Alvarez status is in flux. Management is mulling moving him to 1b. Hurdle: "But, is that something you entertain in pennant race?"— Rob Biertempfel (@BiertempfelTrib) August 3, 2014
I asked #Pirates Alvarez if he is open to moving to first base. As he walked away, he said, "That hasn't been discussed."— Rob Biertempfel (@BiertempfelTrib) August 3, 2014
Manager Clint Hurdle told reporters, including Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh-Tribune Review and Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, that "everything will be taken into consideration" when deciding what to do with Alvarez. "I'm still involved in some discussions," he added.
Alvarez, 27, leads baseball with 24 errors this season, 23 of which are throwing errors. No other player has more than 18 errors this year. Things have been especially bad of late -- Alvarez has committed six errors in his last 11 games.
The Pirates have a third base alternative in All-Star utility man Josh Harrison, who comes into Sunday's game hitting .303/.341/.498 (135 OPS+) with 10 home runs and 13 stolen bases in 94 games. "Harrison is more than a viable option. He's our best defender on the club right now at third base," said Hurdle to Brink.
Because he is out of minor league options, the Pirates can not send Alvarez to Triple-A to work on his defense at third or learn first base without passing him through waivers. He'd get claimed in an instant, so that won't happen. The team could either have him learn first on the fly or continue to use him sparingly at the hot corner. It's a tough situation, for sure.
The Pirates signed utility man Jayson Nix on Sunday and he'll give the team some more third base depth in the meantime. In a perfect world, they would move Alvarez to first next season and let him use the offseason to get familiar with the position. Incumbent left-handed hitting first baseman Ike Davis (101 OPS+) will be a non-tender candidate over the winter given his $3.5 million salary.
For now, Pittsburgh just has to hope Alvarez is in nothing more than a defensive funk and he'll soon straighten himself out. Harrison has been the better player on both sides of the ball this year, but there are plenty of ways to get him and Alvarez into the lineup at the same time. Alvarez's game-changing power is not something they want glued to the bench.