The reason is quite simple, really – Scott Boras. In case you don’t know who Boras is, he is the owner and founder of the Boras Corporation, a sports agency that specializes in representing clients playing professional baseball. He is responsible for brokering many of the record-breaking contracts that are plaguing MLB today, and he’s notorious for representing several high-level clients like Alex Rodriguez, Stephen Strasburg, Prince Fielder and the Pittsburgh Pirates‘ Pedro Alvarez (though, he probably isn’t considered “high-level” quite yet).
So, why is that important? Well, Boras is in the business of generating excessive value for his clients. As an example, he is responsible for the 2012 contract between Prince Fielder and the Detroit Tigers, which sees Fielder being paid $214 million over nine years. He’s also responsible for A-Rod’s deal with the New York Yankees to a tune of ten years valued at $275 million (that one didn’t work out so well for him over the last week – wonder if he still receives commission?).
The Pirates control Alvarez through the 2017 season, though he’s eligible for arbitration starting in 2014. He’s filed the paperwork, as did five other Pirates, and today is the day in which the team and players exchange salary numbers. If they can reach a deal, there is no need to go through the entire arbitration process. A fun fact, Garrett Jones is the last Pirate to go through the process which last occurred in 2012. The Pirates and Alvarez will likely reach a deal in the neighborhood of $3.6-$4.0 million for 2014, obviously taking his performance in 2013 (Silver Slugger Award, NL HR leader, etc.) into consideration.
The unique point here is that no blockbuster long-term deal needs to be made in the short term. The Pirates have time to see how this is going to play out, especially if they think he is going to continue to be a streaky player. For a guy who led the league in home runs (36), strikeouts (186) and fielding errors (27), waiting may be a gamble that will pay off for the Pirates, especially if he cannot improve on the latter two statistics.
Another problem with Alvarez is that he can be neutralized quite easily by throwing a lefty against him. With a triple-slash of .180/252/.286 with three home runs against left-handed pitching in 2013 compared to .249/.310/.532 with 33 homers against right-handed pitching, the Pirates are probably going to need to begin to consider a platoon situation as they become more competitive over the next couple of years. They cannot afford to have a hole in the lineup and an apparent liability in the field with no offensive upside when a lefty is on the bump. You already have that with Clint Barmes in the lineup, but at least he brings a superior defensive presence with him.
The best advice for the Pirates is to employ the wait-and-see approach — an approach they’ve become very familiar with during the offseason. It could prove to pay dividends over the next couple of seasons with Alvarez.