Late Monday evening the Orioles reached an agreement with Pedro Alvarez on a one year, $5.75 million deal with $1.5 million in incentives.
Alvarez is expected to be in Sarasota at some point Tuesday afternoon, but he will have to pass a physical with the Orioles first before the deal becomes official.
The Pittsburgh Pirates drafted Alvarez in 2008 with the second overall pick in the Major League Baseball draft. Alvarez made his major league debut with Pittsburgh during the 2010 season. He made the National League All-Star team in 2013, and he finished the 2013 season with 36 home runs (tied for first in the National League) and 100 RBI.
Alvarez was non-tendered by the Pirates in early December, making him a free agent.
Alvarez is somewhat of a defensive liability. He played third base for Pittsburgh until the 2015 season. While at third he led National League in errors from 2012 to 2014. Last year he led the majors with 23 errors at first base.
As a hitter, Alvarez is a career .236 hitter with 131 home runs and a .309 on-base percentage. Like many other Orioles currently on their roster, he hits the long ball but does strike out often.
The likely scenario here is for the Orioles to use Alvarez as their designated hitter. Alvarez’s defensive struggles made him attractive to American League teams in need of a lefty bat. The Orioles lineup is loaded with right-handed hitters, so Alvarez fills a need for Baltimore in adding a lefty to their lineup.
However, this move should not be seen as an ideal one for Baltimore. Alvarez’s addition likely means that Mark Trumbo will be moving to right field, and Trumbo was most likely going to be Baltimore’s designated hitter before the Alvarez signing. Now, Alvarez will likely be the everyday DH while Trumbo plays the outfield.
The Orioles could also move Trumbo to first base and have Chris Davis play right field, which Davis has done in the past for Baltimore. Trumbo is primarily an infielder, but with the Orioles signing Davis to a seven year, $161 million contract, they want him playing mainly first base with his big salary.
The Alvarez deal could end up being good for the Orioles if one of their starting infielders suffers an injury. Shortstop JJ Hardy only played in 114 games last season and has been dealing with lingering back injuries over the past two seasons. Should he re-aggravate the back and land on the DL, the O’s could move Manny Machado over to short and plug in either Alvarez or Ryan Flaherty at third. Just a thought, but the Orioles have plenty of options pending injuries to their key infielders.
The Orioles probably waited a little too long and were unable to land a quality corner outfielder, and they could face the same problems they had last season with their corner outfield struggles. However, their lineup is now one of the strongest in the majors and they will score plenty of runs this season. Their corner outfield play might be a weakness, but the Orioles have several strengths that will hopefully make the right field play a minor issue for the team in 2016.