The A’s were happy to land Henderson Alvarez, though they can’t be sure when the right-hander will be able to contribute.
The team announced Monday the one-year contract that reportedly guarantees Alvarez $4.25 million, with a possible $1.6 million more in performance incentives. News of the agreement first broke Dec. 18.
The 25-year-old Venezuela native is coming off right shoulder surgery that sidelined him for all but four early-season starts in 2015. It’s still unknown when Alvarez will be game-ready this season, though A’s general manager David Forst expects him to get on the mound during spring training so the team can gauge his progress.
This move was as much about 2017 as it is 2016, however. Oakland will still control Alvarez in 2017 through the arbitration process. That means if he comes back at full strength in the upcoming season and settles in as an effective starter, the A’s are guaranteed to have the 2014 All-Star back the following season at a reasonable price.
“Henderson has accomplished a lot and has a lot of experience for someone who’s just 25 years old,” Forst said via e-mail. “A year ago, he was coming off an All-Star season and considered one of the better young pitchers in the game, so we wouldn’t have even had a chance to get him had he not had a shoulder injury in 2015.”
Alvarez went 12-7 with a 2.65 ERA in 30 starts for the Miami Marlins in 2014. At his best, he exhibits pinpoint control and is a ground ball-inducing machine. He’s averaged a modest 4.7 strikeouts per nine innings over a major league career that began with Toronto in 2011. He underwent arthroscopic surgery in July to repair a tear in his shoulder, and the Marlins did not tender him a contract this winter, which made Alvarez a free agent.
One high-profile target who no longer appears on the A’s radar is lefty Scott Kazmir, one of the top free agent starters remaining on the market. His price tag always seemed to make him somewhat of a long shot for Oakland despite mutual interest from the team and player regarding his possible return.
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As for Alvarez, he’ll join an A’s rotation picture that has no shortage of quantity, but does contain some injury question marks even beyond him. Sonny Gray is the anchor atop the rotation. He’ll be joined by free agent addition Rich Hill and probably second-year pitcher Kendall Graveman, provided Graveman is recovered from an oblique injury that shut him down in August.
A rotation spot awaits Jesse Hahn if he’s healthy after a strained forearm sidelined him in early July last season. Hahn felt some lingering soreness after starting a throwing program at the end of last season. A precautionary MRI showed no structural damage, but the A’s seem leery of taking anything for granted with Hahn’s condition.
The fifth spot is up for grabs among a group that includes Chris Bassitt, Sean Nolin, Aaron Brooks and Jarrod Parker, who’s as big an unknown as anyone considering he’s missed two full seasons with serious elbow issues. Then there’s Alvarez, a high-upside addition who will arrive at spring training in February as the staff wild card. If he were to join the rotation and be pitching effectively by around May, the A’s starting pitching will look a lot more formidable.