The Orioles, under executive vice president Dan Duquette and manager Buck Showalter, make unconventional moves.
Decisions that don’t seem to fit initially, but might if certain things happen.
And that’s what has appeared to have occurred this weekend.
According to FanRag Sports, the Orioles have agreed to a minor league deal with Pedro Alvarez, pending medical review, that could pay him $2 million with incentives that could be worth an additional $3.5 million.
The first reaction is, ‘Say what?’
Alvarez, 30, had a solid season for the Orioles last year, when he initially didn’t appear to be a particularly good fit, but ended up as a solid contributor with 22 homers and a .249 average.
He looks like an ever worse fit this spring.
Alvarez is a limited defender who can mash right-handed pitching. He’s best served as a platoon DH, though he held his own against lefties last year on a limited basis.
Because the Orioles wanted to upgrade their outfield defense and improve their on-base percentage this offseason, they traded for Seth Smith, added Craig Gentry and Michael Bourn on minor league deals and re-signed Mark Trumbo, who has been penciled-in as the primary DH.
The inn is so crowded that promising young DH Trey Mancini may get punted back to Triple-A despite continuing to hit, young outfielders Joey Rickard, Aneury Tavarez and Anthony Santander are in a no-holds-barred battle for a roster spot, Christian Walker has been jettisoned from the organization and minor league outfielder Dariel Alvarez has been converted to a pitcher.
And now Pedro Alvarez is back in black and orange?
To make matters more bizarre, Alvarez, who has struggled in the past at third base and first base, worked in the outfield this offseason to widen his market. And the sense, according to FanRag, is that he could be used as an outfielder in the Orioles’ organization.
Well, here are some quick thoughts on all of this.
Let’s just call me skeptical that Alvarez can play an adequate outfield. He has a strong arm, but he wasn’t good at his original positions. Trying a new one at 30 seems rather ambitious, especially for the Orioles, who emphasize defense and felt they needed an upgrade over Trumbo. I can’t imagine Alvarez can trump Trumbo out there, and Trumbo is still the best bet for most DH at-bats, anyway.
Secondly, it’s gonna be real interesting to see if Alvarez would be willing to play extensively at Norfolk. This is a guy who was the No. 2 pick in the nation in 2008 and hasn’t played at Triple-A since 2011. I’m sure it is humbling not to be signed until March in consecutive years, but that’s different than actually riding buses to Scranton in May.
Alvarez is a big leaguer, there is no doubt about it. And he just looks like big league insurance with the Orioles, and that’s got to be tough for him to swallow.
To me, this is kind of baseball’s version of finding odd jobs for an unemployed buddy until he can find something better.
When the Orioles brought in Alvarez last March there was concern that he was recalcitrant, and wouldn’t fit into the carefully constructed clubhouse atmosphere. Good guy Ryan Flaherty, Alvarez’s college teammate, vouched for El Toro and the Orioles took a shot.
And Alvarez proved to be a hard worker and great teammate. He was quiet and he didn’t seek out the media, but he was a model citizen and produced enough on the field to justify his spot.
Since he was without a job again with weeks to go before the season starts, the Orioles probably figured they had nothing to lose.
They know his bat, they like his personality and his price tag was right.
Like many of Duquette’s moves, it was low-risk with a solid upside. It’s not a bad call if Alvarez is willing to bide his time in the minors and the Orioles suffer an injury. In fact, it could prove to be a really good move in that scenario.
Is it a conventional one, though?
Absolutely not, but you’re used to that by now.