The Yankees are walking a tight rope this season: on one hand, they would like to shed long-term commitments to older players and play some of the young talent they’ve developed over the last few years, but they are also trying to contend. As Derek wrote yesterday, while the Yankees plan to come into next season relying on Greg Bird for left-handed power production, he is coming back from major shoulder surgery. While I am fairly bullish on both Matt Holliday and Didi Gregorius, neither is the traditional left-handed bomber that the Yankees typically employ. As the offseason has progressed, it has become apparent that teams have not been willing to pay for one-dimensional sluggers, and the ones that have signed have signed contracts with significantly less guaranteed money than most observers reasonably expected. With that in mind, does it make sense for the Yankees to dip into that market? While there are many quality power options, the player that I think would make the most sense is Pedro Alvarez.
Pedro Alvarez is was once considered one of the consensus top 25 prospects in all of baseball when he came through the Pirates system. While he’s been a solid major leaguer, his struggles against left-handed pitching, strikeouts defense have significantly cut into his value throughout his career. According to Baseball-Reference, Alvarez has a career .606 OPS vs. LHP, with his overall tOPS+ (his split OPS+ relative to his overall OPS+) vs. LHP is merely 62 (!), 48 points below his overall OPS+. Meanwhile, he has struck out at a 28.7 % rate over the course of his MLB career, although he has hovered between 25-26% the last couple of seasons. As other teams have recognized, Alvarez is a flawed player.
While Alvarez may be a flawed player, he can still be a useful player. He generally posts walk rates in the 9-10 % range; he can spell a starter at both 1B and 3B – something the Yankees could definitely use to give Headley and Bird more days off this year; and most importantly, he can do this:
Wow. Alvarez has the type of power that plays in any park, save for maybe Yellowstone. Alvarez can miss a pitch by a little, and still hit the ball out. That is a skill that plays up for left-handed batters in Yankee Stadium with the short right field porch. For his career, Alvarez has posted an ISO of .211 overall, however those numbers have been up the last two years, with a .227 ISO in 2015 and .255 in 2016. In 2016, that ISO rose to .271 against RHP. If the Yankees were to sign Alvarez, he can definitely give Holliday days off against tough righties.
Overall, it’s not hard to find Alvarez 300 AB even before we consider the risk of injury to Headley, Bird, and Holliday. Alvarez is overmatched as an everyday option, but he could be an excellent piece as a part-time player. If the Yankees carry a couple of long-relievers as opposed to three middle-relief types, they could squeeze him onto the bench even with the presence of Tyler Austin. What would it take to sign him? My guess is that given the state of the market, Alvarez can be had for a 1 year deal somewhere in the $5-7 million range. Alvarez can help the Yankees this year, he doesn’t stretch the budget, but he could cut into the kids’ playing time to some extent. Depending on how low the price for Alvarez goes, he may make sense for the Yankees.