By Jason Shetler
After some major throwing issues at third base last season, Pedro Alvarez made the transition to first base this year. That transition has been extremely difficult for the left-handed slugger, as he’s committed 16 errors, by far the most in baseball. Alvarez hasn’t been great offensively in 2015, but at the very least has been league average in terms of OPS+. The Pirates brought in Corey Hart last offseason to serve as a right-handed platoon alongside Alvarez. The Hart experiment has failed miserably, as he’s posted just a .417 OPS vs southpaws, and is now likely out for the season with an injury to his left shoulder.
Last week at the trade deadline, the Pirates acquired Michael Morse from the Los Angeles Dodgers and parted ways with Jose Tabata in the process. Morse will now serve as the first baseman against lefties. What makes the Morse acquisition interesting is that he’ll be under contract next season since he signed a two-year deal with the Miami Marlins this past offseason. So does the Morse deal spell the end for Alvarez after this year?
The Pirates made it no secret prior to the deadline that they were looking to move Alvarez. Now with Morse in the mix, an Alvarez trade this offseason could become a real possibility. Although Morse will be facing lefty pitching most of the time, his numbers against right-handers are actually better, so he could play first base on a primary basis. Morse’s defense at first rates out as slightly below average, but compared to Alvarez, he becomes an instant upgrade. If Alvarez can perform well in the second half offensively, the Pirates might just sell high on his offensive value for an American League club. Should that happen, Morse could then be the first baseman next season once Josh Bell makes his arrival.