Oakland Athleticss: Henderson Alvarez Could Become Steal of the Offseason


On Friday, the Oakland Athletics inked young right-hander Henderson Alvarez to a very cheap contract, which could turn out to be the steal of the offseason.

When the Miami Marlins non-tendered right-hander Henderson Alvarez earlier in the offseason, it was seen as a surprising move. In maybe a more surprising move, the Oakland Athletics snatched Alvarez off the free market with a very reasonable deal, worth just $4.25 million for the 2016 season.

Alvarez won’t be able to start the season for the A’s, as shoulder surgery undergone in June will cause him to miss at least the first month of the season, which is the best case scenario. The more likely scenario is that Alvarez will miss much more than just the first month of the campaign. There is plenty of risk involved with signing Alvarez, but at that price, this is a low-risk, and potentially very high-reward move.

At $4.25 million for 2016, the 25-year-old Alvarez is receiving just a fraction of some of the deals that have been handed out to pitchers years older than Alvarez, and without the upside that Alvarez possesses. If Alvarez can return anywhere close to the form that he showed before the surgery, the A’s would be getting an incredible steal.

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On the final day of the 2013 season, Alvarez threw a no-hitter against the Detroit Tigers. In 2014, he was an All-Star, as he won 12 games for the fourth-place Marlins, tied for the Major League lead with three shutouts, and finished sixth in the National League with a sparkling 2.65 ERA. With Jose Fernandez on the shelf due to Tommy John surgery, Alvarez became the ace the Marlins needed in his stead.

The Athletics’ main hope for this deal is that Alvarez can return to that form to some extent, and provide a strong second option behind resident ace Sonny Gray. As the team fights to stay afloat in the American League West, they’ve made a habit of turning these small time contract players into big time successes. It’s happened time and time again, and they are hoping to strike it rich once more, this time with Alvarez.

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Of course, it would be absolutely nonsensical to ignore the shoulder problems and think that it’s a foregone conclusion that Alvarez will regain his past form. The shoulder is incredibly tricky for a pitcher, and he may continue on with his career as a mere shell of his former self. But at this price, it is a risk that is most definitely worth taking for the Athletics.

If Alvarez struggles following his return in 2016, the Athletics can take the route that the Marlins did and non-tender him, making him a free agent again. If he again becomes a stellar pitcher, the Athletics can keep Alvarez through arbitration, and have another year of him in 2017, possibly flipping him for a bigger profit, as is the Athletics’ way.

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The Marlins didn’t see Alvarez as being worth the risk for them, which is understandable. The Athletics have made it their business practice to take on such risks. If this one pays off, Alvarez could become the steal of the offseason.