Yesterday, we profiled some of the pitchers who were non-tendered around the league, and whether they might fit with the Colorado Rockies. Obviously, players will start signing with various organizations as the Winter Meetings take place over the next few days, so we'd be remiss if we only analyzed pitchers.
The other need the Rockies (may) have is at first base, where they ought to seek a right-handed power hitter to possibly complement or even usurp Ben Paulsen. Knowing that, today we look that direction at a few notable power-hitting position players who were non-tendered this week. As we look at these candidates, you can also follow the MLB Trade Rumors non-tender tracker to see everyone who was both tendered and... not.
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The 26-year-old slugger was non-tendered by the Pittsburgh Pirates. Alvarez hit .243/.318/.469 last year, with 27 home runs and 77 RBIs. The 2015 season was his first playing the majority of his games at first base, as he was moved from the hot corner after the 2014 season to try and recoup some of the value of his bat that was being lost because of his poor defense. The move was not as successful as the Pirates had hoped, though, and the second pick in the 2008 MLB Draft was still a liability. Alvarez cost the Pirates 14.3 runs in 906 innings in 2015, according to ultimate zone rating defensive metrics. It's always possible that he will improve as he becomes more experienced at first, but he was worse defensively last year — at a less challenging position — than in his worst season at third base (-13.8 UZR).
Will the Rockies pursue Alvarez? It's possible, but it doesn't seem likely. There are too many parallels to Wilin Rosario's poor defense, and the Rockies have only just rid themselves of that. Besides, Alvarez's left-handed bat obviously wouldn't play opposite Paulsen in any hypothetical platoon at first base, and the Rockies could really use a powerful right-hander who can hit lefties.
The most logical fit for Alvarez, like Rosario, is somewhere in the American League, possibly where he can be a designated hitter against predominantly right-handed pitchers.
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The 28-year-old has a similar profile to Alvarez in some ways, except he's generally stronger on defense and slightly weaker at the plate. He hit .199/.307/.427 with 24 home runs and 64 RBIs in 2015, which is a concern (to put things mildly). However, he is significantly less of a liability on defense, logging a -1.9 UZR last year for Houston, which was also the first season of his career in which all of his games played came at first base. Just a year removed from hitting .227/.308/.491, the biggest question with Carter is if 2015 was an outlier or the new norm at the plate.
I wouldn't be particularly upset to see the Rockies take a chance on Carter, as I do think he will bounce back at least a little bit from last year in the friendly offensive confines of Coors Field. But he isn't significantly better in any category than Ben Paulsen, and his lack of ability to get on base throughout his career is something that has already been plaguing the Rockies' lineup.
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Another 28-year-old first baseman, Davis has long been a name that's popped up around the Rockies with our own Bryan Kilpatrick suggesting the Rockies sign him last offseason. Davis instead signed in Oakland and hit .229/.301/.350 in 74 games with the A's in 2015. That represented a regression from his 2014 season, which Davis split between the Mets and the Pirates, but some of that could probably be attributed to small sample size from less playing time. Davis is certainly an intriguing option at first; the 2008 NL Rookie Of The Year has shown flashes of being very good defensively, but at the plate, ever since he hit .302 in 2011, his average has topped .230 only once.
From an all-around perspective, Davis is probably the most appealing non-tender name out there at first, and would be the best signing of these three particular options. He is still only 28, so there is a chance he could regain the form he had when he was younger. He is still a fairly cheap option, making $3.8 million last season and probably not in line for a significant raise. However, he — like Alvarez — is a left-handed bat, rendering any hypothetical time-sharing situation with Paulsen weaker than a true right-left platoon.
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There are a number of intriguing possibilities out there, should the Rockies decide they want an upgrade from Paulsen at first base, or even a platoon option to provide some much-needed pop in the lineup. Mike Napoli is a free agent that could possibly be a fit, and may even be a stronger candidate since he's a right-hander who can face lefties.
Considering first base is one of the weaker positions in the organization right now, free agent options like this are worth watching, but in the end I personally suspect the team will predominantly stick with Paulsen, at least for 2016.