The Pirates have announced that they have non-tendered Pedro Alvarez (and outfielder Jaff Decker, who wasn't arbitration-eligible). They tendered contracts to all their other arbitration-eligible players: Neil Walker, Mark Melancon, Jeff Locke, Francisco Cervelli, Chris Stewart, Jordy Mercer, Tony Watson and Jared Hughes.
Neal Huntington says there was little interest in Alvarez on the trade market, and it's not hard to see why. There were few obvious fits for Alvarez in the American League, particularly given the salary of $8 million or so he likely would have commanded on the open market. And he would have almost had to be used as a DH -- it's hard to imagine any sane team giving up talent, taking on his salary and installing him at first base after the defensive season he just had. On top of that, potential trade partners surely were aware there was a possibility the Bucs would non-tender Alvarez anyway, thus giving them the chance to acquire him without giving up talent.
Anyway, Alvarez's career in Pittsburgh now ends with a whimper, but at least there were some bangs along the way. As the Pirates' first draft pick of the Huntington/Coonelly administration, as a Scott Boras client who would require a huge bonus, and as a college slugger with a fearsome reputation, Alvarez's selection marked the beginning of a new era for the Bucs, and fans followed him with great enthusiasm as he made his way through the minors. Even then, there were warning signs that he was unlikely to become the star he hoped he would be. In between minor-league home runs, he struck out more than his fair share. But his power was thrilling, and for Pirates fans at the time, novel.
After a solid rookie season in 2010, Alvarez struggled in 2011. He reemerged in 2012 and 2013, though, hitting a total of 66 homers (and striking out 366 times) in those two years. To his credit, he became a pretty good defensive third baseman along the way, too, showing better instincts than one might expect of a big man and throwing out baserunners with a cannon of an arm.
In 2014, though, that arm got him into trouble, as he inexplicably struggled horribly to make throws across the diamond. That led to a move to first, which should have gone well -- Alvarez wouldn't have to throw much anymore, and a player who recently had handled third base capably shouldn't have had much trouble transitioning to an easier position.
Or that's what I thought at the time. Actually, the first base experiment turned out to be a disaster. Every hard-hit or -thrown ball in Alvarez's direction was an adventure, and balls hit to the gap between first and second led to moments you watched from in between your fingers.
It was Alvarez's defense that ultimately ended his career as a Pirate. His offensive game was frustrating, but ultimately fine -- his home runs (and actually, to a much lesser degree, his surprisingly good baserunning) made up for his hundreds upon hundreds of very frustrating plate appearances. But it wasn't good enough to make up for his defense, particularly with an $8 million salary hanging over the Pirates' heads.
In parts of six seasons with the Bucs, Alvarez hit .236/.309/.441. His 131 career homers -- many of them glorious no-doubters -- rank 13th in Pirates history. It wasn't a bad run for him at all. I tip my cap to him. But with Alvarez's salary rising, and with his dreadful defense dragging him down to 0.2 fWAR combined in the past two seasons, I agree with the Bucs that it was time to go another direction.