The Oakland Athletics officially announced on Monday that they have signed right-handed starting pitcher Henderson Alvarez to a one-year contract. This signing was not a surprise, since Alvarez himself had tweeted about the potential deal back on December 18. With this move, the A’s are signifying that they are continuing to build their team for the future in hopes that Alvarez will be a long term solution for the rotation.
Even though Alvarez was a free agent this offseason, he will be under team control through 2017 because he only has four years of Major League service time under his belt. Additionally, he has the potential to be a great starting pitcher. So, if he is talented, why was he a free agent this offseason?
Alvarez had to undergo shoulder surgery in July 2015 and it was expected that he would not be fully recovered to pitch by the start of the 2016 season. In addition, MLB Trade Rumors projected that Alvarez would make $4 million this upcoming year. Thus, the Miami Marlins decided to non-tender his contract this offseason. The Athletics took the opportunity to swoop up this All-Star starter even though he probably will not join the rotation until May.
Hailing from Venezuela, this 25-year-old has already accomplished quite a bit in his short MLB career. In 2012, just one year after making his Major League debut with the Toronto Blue Jays, Alvarez pitched his first shutout. Then, at the end of the 2013 season, he threw a no-hitter. Finally, in 2014, Alvarez was named the Opening Day starter for the Marlins and was elected to the National League All Star Team.
2014 was Alvarez’s best season so far. He ended the year with a 12-7 record, a 2.65 ERA, and a 1.24 WHIP over 30 starts. Additionally, he pitched three shutout games that season and only allowed 14 homers. Unfortunately, this magnificent year was followed by a dismal start to the 2015 season that ended with surgery.
If he stays healthy, Alvarez has the potential to be great. He can throw five different pitches including a sinkerball, slider, changeup, four-seam fastball and cutter. His pitches tend to induce a lot of ground ball and fly ball outs. Let’s hope that the surgery Alvarez underwent has completely fixed his shoulder issues and that he can remain off the disabled list for 2016.
A healthy Alvarez and ace Sonny Gray are some strong pitchers on which to build the A’s future starting rotation. Both are young, talented, and will most likely be successful for many years to come if they stay off the disabled list. Add in a few more quality arms – of which the Oakland Athletics will have plenty once some rookies gain more Major League experience – and the rotation could become one of the strongest in the big leagues in the coming years.