Jose Alvarez likely to undergo Tommy John surgery

Giants left-hander Jose Alvarez’s 2022 season is over due to a setback in his injury rehab, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports.  Alvarez has not pitched since mid-June due to a pair of injured-list stints, first for a back strain and then elbow inflammation that Slusser reports was later diagnosed as a UCL strain.  The problem is serious enough that Tommy John surgery is likely necessary, though Alvarez will probably seek out a second opinion before making his final choice about surgery.

Due to the usual 12-15 month recovery timeframe for TJ surgery, Alvarez seems likely to miss the entire 2023 season.  On the off chance that Alvarez does find a favorable second opinion, it would still seem like he would be facing a lengthy absence that might make him questionable for the start of the 2023 campaign, and there’s no guarantee that he wouldn’t eventually end up getting a Tommy John surgery anyway in the event of another setback.

It is a tough outcome for the 33-year-old, who will end his 10th Major League season with just 15 1/3 innings pitched and a 5.28 ERA.  Alvarez signed a free agent with San Francisco prior to the 2021 season that ultimately paid him $2.55M over the 2021-22 seasons, after the Giants exercised a club option on his services for 2022.

As such, the left-hander will now head into free agency with a lot of health uncertainty hanging over his market.  It does not necessarily mean that Alvarez would not be able to find a new deal this winter, as several pitchers in similar TJ situations have signed two-year contracts, with only a minimum salary for the first year of the contract in the understanding that the pitcher will miss most or all of the year rehabbing.

Alvarez had a solid track record of success as a member of the Angels and Phillies bullpens from 2015-19, posting a 3.36 ERA/3.80 SIERA over 295 innings in those seasons.  Alvarez wasn’t just a left-handed specialist, as he delivered good numbers against right-handed batters in addition to dominating left-handed batters.  His solid run was interrupted by an injury-plagued 2020 season, as he tossed only 6 1/3 innings for Philadelphia due to a groin injury.

It made for an ill-timed platform season as Alvarez was eligible for free agency for the first time, and the Giants ended up with a nice bargain for their modest $2.55M investment.  Despite a 4.42 SIERA in 2021 and one of the lowest (15.8 percent) strikeout rates of any pitcher in baseball, Alvarez outperformed his peripherals to post a 2.37 ERA over 64 2/3 frames last season, benefiting from a 50.5 percent grounder rate, lots of soft contact, and a .251 BABIP.

This performance made it a pretty easy call for the Giants to exercise their club option, but Alvarez unfortunately again finds himself heading into free agency as a big injury question mark.  It would not be surprising to see the Giants re-sign Alvarez to another low-cost two-year deal, even if there is naturally more risk attached to an older pitcher coming off Tommy John surgery.