The Tampa Bay Rays reportedly have an interest in left-handed reliever Dario Alvarez, who split the 2016 season between the Atlanta Braves and Texas Rangers, according to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.
Alvarez, 27, made a career-high 26 appearances last season, pitching to a cumulative 5.06 ERA in 26.2 innings. He was particularly hurt by the home run as he gave up six of them last season — and has nine total in his 31.2 career innings.
The Dominican Republic native, who signed with the Philadelphia Phillies as an international free agent in 2007, also made 10 appearances with the Mets between 2014-15.
Success in the majors hasn’t happened for Alvarez, who enjoyed strong minor league seasons in the Phillies’ system before he was released following the 2009. He did not pitch in organized baseball until 2013 when the Mets signed him to a minor league deal. So why are the Rays interested?
According to FanGraphs, Alvarez saw an increase in his fastball velocity last season by over two mph, going from 90.7 in 2015 to 92.8 in 2016. However, Alvarez’s slider — which sat in the mid-80s range — is regarded as his best pitch.
While a prospect in the Mets’ organization in 2014, Alvarez was profiled by FanGraph’s Nathaniel Stoltz, who raved about his slider and at the time said he could be a replacement-level bullpen arm:
Alvarez doesn’t look like he’s going to be a precision guy against better talent, he still should have enough idea of where the fastball and slider are going to make them work out all right.
So he has potential, but what he really has is time. The Rays are setting a precedent of looking to stack up as many arms with several years’ team control as possible. In the Rule 5 Draft, the Rays’ most noteworthy acquisition was 22-year-old RHP Kevin Gadea from the Seattle Mariners’ organization.
As a reminder, Rule 5 selections must be kept on the 25-man roster for the duration of the following season and may not be demoted or desginated to the minors. The Rays also acquired RHPs Ty Hensley and Jairo Munoz, but both are longterm bets and can be stored in the minors via other rules.
If Gadea sticks, he could be a fixture in the Rays’ bullpen for years to come. Incumbent relievers, such as Danny Farquhar, Enny Romero, and Brad Boxgerger, fit the same mold as none are set to hit free agency until 2020 at the earliest, provide the Rays with long term options.
Alvarez is still in his pre-aribtration eligibility, will not become arbitration eligible until the 2019 campaign, and won’t hit free agency until 2023.
While the signing of Wilson Ramos showed the Rays are willing to spend some money, their bullpen will be more of a patch-up than a spending spree.
It’s odd for the Rays to be connected with so specific a player, but Alvarez makes sense as a buy-low left-hander, and tells us a lot about what the Rays are prioritizing as they rebuild the bullpen.