As I mentioned in last night’s gamethread, the Pirates decided early yesterday to activate Pedro Alvarez from the disabled list and immediately option him to Triple-A. For now, the move doesn’t mean much functionally. I think everyone expected Pedro to stay in Indianapolis at least until after the All-Star Break and Neal Huntington said nothing about the timetable for Pedro’s return to Pittsburgh other than, “We believe this move is the best way to get him back on track offensively and defensively, so that he can help us win games at a Major League level.”
Tim at Pirates Prospects has a good rundown of exactly what this demotion means. My initial impression was that this move was weirdly timed, both because it seemed that Pedro could rehab until July 17th and because Alvarez was down to his final option and sending him to the minors would burn it (being the conspiracy theorist that I am sometimes and knowing how the Pirates’ front office works, I had initially suspected that Alvarez was disabled to get him time in the minors and preserve the option). Tim points out, though, that because of the amount of time Alvarez spent at Pirate City working out, the Pirates had to reduce his rehab assignment by nine days, that they don’t burn an option if he stays down less than 20 days, and that even if they do burn an option Alvarez qualifies for a fourth one in 2012 because he used his first three in less than five years total of his career.
Tim’s clarifications bring things into slightly better focus. Instead of reading the demotion as a message being sent to Pedro or a sign that the front office thinks that Josh Harrison and/or Chase d’Arnaud give the Pirates a better chance to win games, I think we can still read this as a sign he’s not quite ready yet. Really, though both Harrison and d’Arnaud play hard and they’ve both had their moments, neither is doing a ton to help the Pirates at the big league level right now. Harrison’s .299 batting average is almost offensively empty because he’s only drawn one walk in 79 plate appearances and only 4 of his 23 hits are doubles. That means he’s hitting .299/.308/.351 while playing middling defense at third. d’Arnaud hasn’t been much different; he’s drawn two walks in 63 PAs and his average is lower than Harrison’s. He’s hitting .237/.262/.339 and his defense has been pretty rough around the edges (though it’s better at third than at short).
I’m not trying to knock either guy; they’ve been tossed right into the fire and they’ve had their moments and the team has played well since they’ve been called up, even if neither is performing all that well. But neither has come in and forced the Pirates’ hand the way Alex Presley has and it’s pretty hard to say that either one deserves to play over Alvarez, who, with his power, really brings something to the table that neither d’Arnaud nor Harrison has.
The one thing we know this means for sure is that Alvarez can’t be recalled to Pittsburgh before July 19th, because that’s ten days after he was optioned on July 9th. That doesn’t make the timetable all that different if you were assuming he was going to have a full rehab stint. He hasn’t been bad in Indy so far, but that’s mainly because his OBP is .400 with five walks in 24 PAs. That’s part of the reason I don’t expect to see him in Triple-A long; he knows how to draw a walk and with Triple-A guys not having the offspeed stuff that big leaguers do, he’s going to draw a lot of walks and not probably not get a chance to swing the bat much. I’m sure the Pirates want to see more power from him in the next ten days (he’s slugging just .368 in Indy and only .371 total on his rehab stint), but if he shows it, I’d be willing to bet he’s still back in Pittsburgh by the end of the month.