There’s a chance the Chicago White Sox are targeting Pittsburg Pirates infielder Pedro Alvarez as a possible replacement for Adam Dunn, according to Scot Gregor from the Daily Herald. Gregor wrote on Monday that Alvarez may have been the unnamed player White Sox general manger Rick Hahn was referring to when he divulged the fact to Bruce Levine, from CBS Chicago, that the Sox came close to a three-team trade, only to have it fall apart before the non-waiver trade deadline. He also predicts the Sox will continue their pursuit of the left-handed slugger. If Gregor’s assertion is correct and the White Sox are attempting to trade for Pedro Alvarez, the question becomes, is he worth the cost?
When it comes to looking for a left-handed slugger to replace Adam Dunn, they wouldn’t be upgrading based on this year’s performance. Alvarez has a slightly higher batting average than Dunn, .231 compared to .222, and two more RBI, but that’s not saying a whole lot. In nearly every other statistical category of consequence, Dunn comes out on top. This year Adam has four more home-runs, a higher slugging percentage (.441 vs .394), on-base percentage (.348 vs .316), and OPS+ (120 vs 101) than Pedro Alvarez. OPS+ is a significant measurement for a slugger as it normalizes a player’s On-base Plus Slugging percentage and scales it against the league average. Therefore, Adam Dunn’s 120 OPS+ would rate his normalized OPS as 20% greater than league average, while Alvarez’s is only 1% better.
Another other factor to consider is which player provides a greater long term return on investment. Alvarez is under contract through the 2016, according to BaseballReference.com. However, he is arbitration-eligbile for those seasons, and his agent Scott Boras will likely push for a contract extension before the 2015 season. Judging by contracts signed prior to the 2014 MLB season on CBSSports.com, it seems feasible the White Sox could lock in Alvarez with a five year deal worth approximately $45 million- an average of $9 million per year. In the last two years of his current contract with the White Sox, Adam Dunn earned $15 million annually. A free agent following this season, I wouldn’t be surprised if he signed a short term contract in the $6-7 million per year range, based upon his recent production. Dunn will also begin the 2015 season as a 35-year-old veteran, whereas, Pedro Alvarez will be entering his prime at age 28. Advantage Alvarez. That means many more years of him possibly doing this…
The last thing to consider is the opportunity cost of each player. Since the White Sox have to give up a player or two in order to acquire Pedro Alvarez from the Pirates, the quality of the player(s) Chicago gives up to attain him serves as the opportunity cost to the team. According to Tom Singer at MLB.com, “The Pirates have the same holes they looked through all winter: First base, right field and the rotation.” Given the fact the White Sox had only three semi-reliable starting pitchers this season, I can’t imagine Hahn giving up a quality member of the rotation for a hitter batting .222 this year. With Paul Konerko retiring and Dunn likely departing, there really isn’t a first baseman to spare in the organization, so that option is out. The only option left is shipping a right fielder to Pittsburgh in exchange for Alvarez. Anyone else thinking what I’m thinking? Yup, Dayan Viciedo sure would look great in black and yellow.
Taking into account all these considerations, does it make sense for the White Sox to target Pedro Alvarez? I’m going to say yes, if we’re not giving up much more than a player like Dayan Viciedo. This year has been a down season for Alvarez, but it follows two consecutive seasons in which he hit 30+ home runs while posting a respectable 115 OPS+, and he would be under team control for multiple seasons. They would also be saving money compared to what they paid for Dunn’s production in 2013 and 2014. Last but not least, the Sox would be replacing Dunn with a 28-year-old left-handed hitter who would likely benefit from a move to the American League and homer-friendly confines of US Cellular field.
According to Hahn himself, the possibility of the failed trade happening in the future is very real. The day after the non-waiver trade deadline Bruce Levine quoted the White Sox GM as saying, “We hopefully laid some groundwork for future deals going forward. That would be the ill-fated three-way deal I mentioned, or other ones that we didn’t get very far on.” While I don’t view Pedro Alvarez as an elite hitter, if Hahn does pull the trigger and bring him to the Southside, he could be a valuable piece of the puzzle at a reasonable price.