Why Pedro Alvarez to the Orioles Has Pros and Cons

Alvarez gives Baltimore a power hitter, but he will cause plenty of defensive issues. Is it worth it?

The Baltimore Orioles aren't done yet.

On Monday, they swooped in and signed free agent slugger Pedro Alvarez to a one-year, $5.25 million deal.

The move gives the O's yet another power hitter from the left-hand side of the plate, helping to balance a righty-heavy lineup. It is expected that Alvarez will be the team's designated hitter most days, with Chris Davis the incumbent first baseman and Manny Machado ensconced as the team's third baseman for the foreseeable future.

Alvarez hit .243/.318/.469 with the Pirates last year, blasting 27 home runs and knocking in another 77, putting up a weighted runs created (wRC+) of 114. Not too shabby, right? 

Unfortunately, those numbers come with some ugly peripherals.

He's essentially a "three-outcome player," meaning he basically only does three things. He strikes out, walks, or hits home runs. That's it. Those strikeouts are staggering, 29.1% in 2,784 career appearances. Last year, in 150 games, he put up an fWAR of just 0.2. The year before, Alvarez' fWAR was 0.0, but it did follow two seasons in which posted fWARs of 3.0 and 2.2.

He also moves to one of the better hitters parks in all of baseball, Camden Yards. In terms of home runs per game, Oriole Park at Camden Yards was second-best in all of baseball, with Pittsburgh's PNC Park 11th. And much of those fWAR struggles were due to some pretty bad defense in his first season as a first baseman.

In Baltimore, Alvarez will not be expected to do much with the glove, playing most of his games as the team's designated hitter. Which means one thing.

In order to be worth anything, Alvarez is going to have to mash some taters. And he'll have to get at least a little bit better against left-handed pitching.


Last year's numbers were slightly better than his career averages against lefties. And at just 28 years old, without the pressure of playing defense, and in a homer-friendly environment, Alvarez should fare well as the Orioles' designated hitter -- and at a very cheap price for the team.

However, the addition of Alvarez creates an interesting situation. The team had come into the spring thinking right-hander Mark Trumbo would be their everyday designated hitter. Over the last two seasons, the 30-year-old has only put up an wRC+ of 91 and 108 for the Diamondbacks and Mariners. He is also a bad defender in the outfield, worth -12 defensive runs saved (DRS) in his career as an outfielder.

It appears as if Trumbo is now ticketed for right field, where things will certainly be an adventure. And now the final outfield spot on the O's comes down to Nolan Reimold or Joey Rickard in left. Needless to say, Baltimore's outfield defense could be an issue this year.

In order for this to work, Alvarez is going to have to deposit 30 or more balls over the outfield fence, and Trumbo is going to have to assure that his offense overcomes his defensive shortcomings.