|Pedro Alvarez on nearly being a Red Sox||02.26.09 at 5:04 pm ET|
Yes, it was THAT Pedro Alvarez who ripped a run-scoring double to the opposite field in the ninth inning of Thursday’s exhibition game between the Pirates and Red Sox, starting a three-run rally that resulted in a 3-2 win over Boston. Alvarez, considered by many to be the best hitter in last year’s amateur draft, is in his first spring training with Pittsburgh, hoping to make an impression. He was beaming when he got into the clubhouse after the game.
“Finally,” he grinned from his corner locker.
“Finally?” smirked teammate Eric Hinske. “It was your second at-bat this spring.”
Last summer, Alvarez was taken by the Pirates with the second overall pick in the draft. The negotiations between the Pirates, Alvarez and agent Scott Boras became ensnared in all manner of controversy. There appeared to be an agreement, just before the deadline to sign on Aug. 15, to a straight $6 million bonus. Afterwards, however, there were suggestions that the agreement had been reached after midnight on the 15th, and at one point, it appeared that the agreement might dissolve.
The parties managed to avoid that scenario, as Alvarez and the Pirates came to terms on a major-league contract for four years and $6.335 million. The process was a major happening for front offices across baseball, and the Red Sox, like almost every other team, closely followed the developments in the Alvarez case.
But the Red Sox’ interest was not solely in the challenge to the draft system. Boston, after all, had once had its own visions of signing Alvarez.
In 2005, the Sox selected Alvarez — who had a commitment to play college ball at Vanderbilt — in the 14th round out of Horace Mann High School in the Bronx. The team followed his performance with the Bayside Yankees in a summer league, and was sufficiently convinced by his talent that it was willing to offer him the sort of money that typically is given to late-first or sandwich-round picks. Though Alvarez said that negotiations never reached a point where he made a specific bonus request with the Sox, he does admit that the team’s case to sign him was persuasive enough that he did, on occasion, begin imagining a career in Boston.
“There were times, there were days when I woke up in the middle of the night and I was leaning towards the professional side. It was tough. It was definitely tough. But in the end, I didn’t think it was the right time for professional baseball at that point,” Alvarez said yesterday. “School was real important to me. That played a big role (in the decision).”
The decision proved a good one. Alvarez became a dominant lineup force for both Vanderbilt and Team USA, resulting in his top draft status last year (despite the fact that he missed much of the year with a broken hamate) and several million more in bonus money than he would have received from the Sox. Even so, there were moments when Alvarez played the what-if game.
“There were times when it got a little bit tough at school,” he said, “but (in the end) I felt like the decision I made was the right one.”
There was some consolation for amateur scouting director Jason McLeod and the Sox, in that the ’05 draft yielded several players (including Jacoby Ellsbury, Craig Hansen, Clay Buchholz, Jed Lowrie and Michael Bowden in the first and sandwich rounds) who have contributed already in Boston. Even so, Red Sox amateur scouting director McLeod has admitted on more than one occasion that he laments Alvarez as one — perhaps even THE one — that got away. Two at-bats into Alvarez’ spring, there is at list a glimmer of a reason why.
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