Joe Starkey's column this morning is hardly the first to point out how much is riding on Pedro Alvarez developing into a legitimate middle-of-the-order threat. But reading it sort of crystallized my thinking about the status of this team and prompted a few thoughts.
1. If Alvarez has a breakout year, this team is a contender as soon as next season. A lineup that starts off with Tabata, Presley, McCutchen and a productive Alvarez, followed by Walker, Jones/McGehee, Barajas and Barmes actually doesn't sound too bad -- especially with the addition of Cole to the pitching staff next season.
2. If Alvarez continues to flounder, though, you have to start thinking he's a bust -- in which case you have to seriously consider a major rebuild, starting with trading Cutch.
Why? Mostly because we've got a three-year, first-round talent gap to fill. Moskos, Alvarez and Sanchez were all taken as college players who would presumably be in the majors within two years of being drafted and productive within three. Thus far, only Alvarez has shown any glimpses of being a solid major leaguer, and he's currently our biggest question mark.
Simply put, if Alvarez can be what he was drafted to be, this team can be competitive in the short term and ride out the talent trough we're facing over the coming few years until the next big wave -- Taillon, Bell and Heredia -- starts to arrive in 2015 and 2016.
If he can't, this team is going to be as bad for the next three years as it's been for the past 20. In which case my suggestion would be to start dealing off people like Cutch, Tabata and Walker in hopes of acquiring the pieces you'll need to surround the likes of Marte, Bell, Taillon, Heredia, et al, with when that day comes.
Of course that would also make necessary my final point:
3. Neal Huntington would have to be fired and some other GM would brought in to oversee our next major rebuilding effort.