I'm not sure why this happened, but the question of whether the Pirates should sign Pedro Alvarez to an extension reared its ugly head again today. Daniel Dudley at TribLive Radio asked me about it this afternoon, and Travis Sawchik, Joe Starkey and Chris Mueller evidently discussed it on The Fan this afternoon as well.
I didn't hear the segment on The Fan, and I don't know that any of these guys favor an extension. They're all smart guys, so I doubt they do. But I'm not even sure why we're talking about this. Last time this happened, I basically treated it like a joke, because it is, essentially, a joke. I've seen no indication that the Pirates have seriously considered it, and I don't think they ever will. But just in case, let me say it a little more strongly: Signing Pedro Alvarez to an extension right now would likely be the Pirates' worst move since the Matt Morris trade.
Now, obviously, extensions come in many shapes and sizes. If, for example, the Pirates were to sign Alvarez to a one-year, $500,000 extension with a series of $500,000 team options, I would favor it! But of course that's not really what an Alvarez extension would mean. Traditionally, pre-free-agency extensions involve buying out free agent years. (Or at least getting options on them, although it's doubtful Alvarez would give away options on free-agent years without a pretty serious upfront financial commitment.) And, unless the Pirates get a stupidly good price (and they won't, given who Alvarez's agent is) there is absolutely no reason for the Pirates to consider that.
This is Alvarez's age-26 season. The Pirates already control him through his age-29 season, so if they signed him to a long-term deal, the big "perk" for them would be controlling seasons after that. Hands up, who thinks Alvarez is likely to be good in his 30s? Anyone? Here we have a heavy-ish third baseman who isn't particularly athletic, strikes out three times as much as he walks, and has a .233 career batting average. Players who aren't athletic, who don't have athletic bodies, who don't control the strike zone, and can't hit for average ... well, pick any of the four. These are all giant warning signs. If injuries don't get to Alvarez, the need for him to eventually move to first base might. (He's made great strides at third, but that doesn't mean he'll still be there in four years.) If a slide down the defensive spectrum doesn't get him, his strikeouts might. If his strikeouts don't get him, his batting-average issues might. The most likely scenario, though, is that Alvarez's decline will involve some or all those things, and it will come quicker than you think.
Who thinks this player is likely to age well? Anyone? There isn't a serious case to be made that Alvarez will be a good player in his 30s. Of course, he might be, but the odds are against him. And if you can't make a case for Alvarez being likely to be good in his 30s, I humbly remind you that the Pirates already control Alvarez through his age-29 season. There is no urgent reason to sign him now.
Mo Vaughn. Richie Sexson. Cecil Fielder. Troy Glaus. Albert Pujols! What do these players have in common? Well, besides being much better players than Pedro Alvarez? They were all unathletic corner infielders who declined badly in their 30s. We see this with this player type all the time.
Maybe Alvarez will be the exception. But in general, players like Alvarez tend not to be good in their 30s. Even at 26, Alvarez seems to be constantly teetering over the edge of a cliff. Signing Alvarez to an extension is an awful, awful idea, and a team in the Pirates' position has no more business tying itself to an aging player with Alvarez's profile than I do tying a boulder to my leg before a swim.