The flavor of the week seems to be centered around who will platoon with Gaby Sanchez at first base, but the Pittsburgh Pirates have not given any indication whether a platoon situation will be considered at third base with Pedro Alvarez. Why not?
Alvarez is horrible — let me make sure you got that — he is awful against left handed pitching. Ever hear of the Mendoza Line? In case you haven’t, it is considered to be the cutoff point for batting average, where should a player’s batting average drop below said line (.200), that player’s presence in the lineup cannot be justified. Yeah, well Alvarez is 30 points below that against left-handed starters. He becomes a hole in the heart of the order against lefties. So, why haven’t the Pirates mentioned anything about a possible platoon?
Well, there are a couple of reasons, really. Most importantly, they don’t have any other options. Josh Harrison is the listed backup on the depth chart. Not an abysmal option by comparison to Alvarez, but he’s a career slash of .247/.279/.402 against lefties. There is a problem, though. Harrison is a utility player at best. He’s listed as the backup at second base as well, so if Neil Walker goes down, your platoon may be shot in the foot.
Another reason is quite simply financially motivated. The Pirates didn’t want to pay A.J. Burnett, so why would they pay someone to play third base who is any good, especially when fan satisfaction with Alvarez is high? They won’t. That’s a good business decision if you are only considered with your profitability — cost minimization and such.
So, why not find a decent candidate for a platoon? Well, there’s a great reason for this one actually. The free agent market is very thin for third basemen presently, and this year in general. Paired with the Yankees losing Alex Rodriguez, which consumes one of the free agents, there are really no other options besides a trade, and this would not be a good return on investment, especially if you have to give up a quality arm to get this person.
Next season, or this coming offseason rather, looks a bit more ripe with free agent third basemen. Perhaps it’s not the right time now. Maybe the Pirates want to see how Alvarez is going to shake out this season. In any event, the Pirates had better start considering some options in the short term, because the data show that you don’t want Alvarez in the lineup against a lefty, especially in a one-game wildcard series for example.
Vinny Gala is a Pittsburgh Pirates writer for RantSports.Com Follow him on Twitter.