The Pittsburgh Pirates‘ front office has stated that the team’s payroll will likely increase substantially in 2014. After the season the Pirates just had, who could blame them for wanting to build off of that and hopefully surpass what they did in 2013?
According to Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, the Pirates’ first priority this offseason is to try to sign second baseman Neil Walker and third baseman Pedro Alvarez to long-term contract extensions. On the surface, this sounds like a good idea; if you dig a little deeper, however, it sounds a little insane. Even though it seems obvious that extensions for Walker and Alvarez are a bad idea, it has become a hot topic amongst Pirates’ fans.
Walker is already 28 years old and Alvarez is 26; any contract extension involving these two players would involve buying out some of their age-30-and-up seasons. The Bucs still have three years of control with Walker, so he will be 31 years old when he is eligible for free agency. By then, he may not even be worth keeping around. Even now, in his prime years, Walker is nothing more than an average player that should be nothing more than a platoon player. Add a few years of age to his body, and he may be nothing more than a bench player.
The Pirates have control of Alvarez through his age-29 season. Giving him an extension is basically just controlling a few seasons of Alvarez in his 30’s, and he doesn’t have the profile of a player that will age well. Alvarez is a big-bodied third baseman that strikes out a ton, doesn’t walk a lot, and hits for a low average. The one thing he does provide, however, is home runs. For a good example of a corner infielder with little athleticism to be signed to a long term deal, look no further than Albert Pujols. How do you think the Los Angeles Angels feel about signing him now? If Pujols, one of the greatest players of all-time, can’t avoid injuries and declining performance in his 30’s, what makes you think Alvarez will be able to?
With the Pirates still having so much control over Walker and Alvarez, they don’t need to worry about contract extensions yet, or ever, for that matter. The Bucs should be focusing on upgrading first base and right field, and maybe adding a starting pitcher to bolster that depth in case A.J. Burnett doesn’t return.