Pedro Alvarez's surprise entry into free agency has landed him in Baltimore. The Orioles announced Thursday morning that they agreed to a one-year contract with Alvarez after his abrupt departure from the Pittsburgh Pirates.
"To make room on the 40-man roster, the Orioles have released RHP Andrew Triggs," the Orioles announced.
Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune (h/t Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports) first reported the deal on March 7, and Joel Sherman of the New York Post reported the deal is worth $5.75 million with $1.5 million available in performance bonuses.
The Pirates non-tendered Alvarez on Dec. 2, bringing an abrupt end to his six-year run in the Steel City. While it was widely known that Alvarez could have been had via trade, it was still a surprise to see Pittsburgh let him walk one year early with nothing in return.
Alvarez, 29, hit .243/.318/.469 with 27 home runs and 77 RBI last season. He showed marked improvement from his 2014 power numbers (18 homers, 56 RBI), but it was far from the type of performance the Pirates expected. Moving Alvarez from third to first base was supposed to lessen his defensive workload while allowing him to return to offensive form.
It didn't quite work out that way. Alvarez was the sport's worst defensive first baseman by a significant margin and did not flash the same level of pop he had in 2012 and 2013, when he combined for 66 home runs. He accounted for just 0.3 wins above replacement over the last two seasons, per FanGraphs, and produced one win in just three of his six campaigns.
Nevertheless, Alvarez still led the Pirates in home runs and could have more value if he's forced to play the field less.
“Pedro has extraordinary power,” Alvarez's agent, Scott Boras, said in December, per Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “He's got a history, when he plays every day, of hitting 35 home runs and driving in 90 to 100 runs. And he's done it in a ballpark (PNC Park) that's very tough on left-handed hitters. That's something most teams don't have.”
Alvarez also has problems that stretch well beyond his defense. He's struck out on 29.1 percent of his at-bats for his career and has drawn 50 walks in a season just once. His plate discipline is below average on a good day, and even in an era where power matters more than ever, having a .309 career on-base percentage is disconcerting.
As it stands, Alvarez got his wish of leaving Pittsburgh and will get the chance to turn his career around in the hitter-friendly setting of Camden Yards. We'll see if the change of scenery rejuvenates Alvarez, or if the former No. 2 overall pick's early MLB success was an outlier.