Pirates to Create Black Hole at 3B
“There are times when guys are able to get away with flaws at Triple-A that they can’t get away with at the major league level,” Huntington said. “He may be one of those guys.”
I have no axe to grind with Neal Huntington; I evaluate each decision he makes dispassionately, and I think his performance has trended upward as time has gone by. But sometimes I wish the guy just wouldn’t talk so much. What are we to make of this quote, in light of Huntington’s concurrent announcement that Pedro Alvarez will make the team and be the Pirates’ third baseman this year? Apparently, that Alvarez has flaws in his game that he can get away with at Triple-A, but not at the major league level – so we will play him at the major league level anyway.
Now, I know that this is a bit of a cheap shot. What I believe Huntington meant to communicate was that the front office has reached the conclusion that Alvarez needs to adjust to major league pitching, and there is only one place for him to do that. After all, there isn’t that much to be gleaned from the output of a 25 year old in AAA. Alvarez may get away with a good year in Indianapolis and be right back to square one next season at the major league level.
Ordinarily, I would agree with this thinking. The Pirates’ aren’t going to contend this year anyway, and it is important for the front office to determine if there is still hope for Alvarez, or if he is a complete bust. However, this “rebuilding” approach to the Alvarez problem does not really gel with the message the front office has been spreading – that the Pirates’ intend to improve and take another step forward this season. Free agents Rod Barajas, Clint Barmes and Nate McLouth were signed, ostensibly, to help the Pirates win more games now. The same thinking inspired the trades for Yamaico Navarro, Casey McGehee and A.J. Burnett. I am not sure how these tactics mesh with a decision to feed Pedro Alvarez to the lions.
The argument in favor of playing Pedro actually made more sense last year, when the only alternatives the Pirates had were the sad trio of Chase d’Arnaud, Josh Harrison and Brandon Wood. But fate intervened, in the form of an oblique strain, and an ill-timed pennant race. But this year they have two players – Casey McGehee and Yamaico Navarro – who would almost certainly create more runs than Pedro Alvarez if given the opportunity.
If he plays every day, I think that there will come a time when Alvarez’s continued futility, if the Pirates are unwilling to address it, will become a problem for a clubhouse used to earning their playing time.