I agree that it comes down to Hague v. Alvarez for one roster spot.
Like you said, the other two roster spots are between Navarro, Harrison, and Fox. Fox and Navarro may get the early nod. With Mercer and D'Arnaud in the middle infield at AAA, I would not be surprised if they temporarily stick Harrison in AA to get more reps SS. There is an opening at SS in Altoona since Brock Holt is more of 2B and Benji Gonzalez did not do enough offensively to deserve a promotion. I do not think Fox will finish the season with the big club, so Harrison's demotion is only temporary. JayHay will be play most of year in Pittsburgh.
Generally, teams don't demote guys 2 levels, even to learn another position. I actually think Harrison's fate is tied to Alvarez, the same as Hague's.
This stuff of playing guys out of position, to help them become more versatile, is fine for ST. But when the bell rings, I think you'll see guys more in their usual positions. So:
If Alvarez starts at 3B for the Pirates, McGehee platoons with Jones at 1B. And against some of the NL's toughest LHSP, you may want to sit both Jones and Alvarez, and stack as many RH bats in the line-up as possible. Creating a need for a RH bat, that can play 3B at least semi-adequately. Making the bench:
If Alvarez goes to Indy to begin this season, McGehee plays 3B FT. And Hague platoons with Jones at 1B. Hague being a rookie and all, they'll want some protection for him, in case he falters. Creating more of a need for Fox. Making the bench:
I think Navarro comes north, regardless. He's the only one left standing that has the glove to back-up the MIF. And Harrison's, Hague's, and Fox's fates are tied to what happens to Alvarez, and consequently, whether McGehee plays full time, or part time.
You wrote - they'll want some protection for him in case he falters.
If Hague falters at the MLB level, then they just send him back down to AAA and bring up Alvarez, Fox, Harrison, or Evans. Hague's got options to burn.
"Plus, whenever Alvarez reaches 6 years of service time, he's outta here - Boras clients almost invariably head to free agency, as soon as possible."
A lot needs to happen before Pedro worries about free agency...
I hope everyone saw this. Looks like Bucs seriously considering Hague as backup...and he's working extra hard at 3rd.
Sometimes, rookies DO make the club out of ST. He's not like a Cutch or projected like Alvarez was, or Bryce Harper who was optioned to AAA today. Waiting for service time issues to kick in with those guys made sense. In this case, not so much. Two reasons: Is the team SERIOUS about winning now? Then they need to bring him up given the uncertainties at the infield corners. Might we "lose" a season of Hague later? Maybe...but as I've noted, he's not projected like some of those other guys, and sometimes ya just gotta go for it.
Sometimes, rookies can - and should - make the club out of ST. The Pirates are finally in a position where April games may have some meaning. Yes, that is pathetic, but we all know that's reality.
Given the April schedule, the time is NOW for Matt Hague.
I do not necessarily disagree with that statement about Harrison and Navarro. They are both RH and play 2B-3B well, but neither has been a great option at short. There is very little to separate them where you would say Harrison is better in this situation and Navarro is better in another. I would prefer a LH or Switch-hitter in the middle infield with Harrison. They are too similar.
I have yet to see Harrison at SS, so I am unaware of his performance. If he looks good, then he should start the season North. I see Harrison is having a good spring 9-for-15 with 5 doubles and 1 triple, .600 BA. Navarro is 5-for-25 with one extra base hit. I really never got the need to trade for Navarro.
Harrison doesn't play any position well defensively and the purported hit against Navarro is that he plays soft defense too, though I haven't seen him play at all.
Maybe Harrison has improved his defense significantly? I doubt it very much.
But Lo! Harrison had a good 15 at bats this spring! Let's bring him north! lol
who are you kidding, keith? the kid has more money already than most of us will ever see...
"Well, the 6 year contract Alvarez signed in September of 2008 expires after the 2014 season."
No, it was a 4 year contract. Two option years, which void if he is Arbitration eligible.
"So, the longer he's in Indy this season"
He would have to spend the whole AAA season at Indy for that to matter. He will either be eligible for arbitration or a Super two in 2014, voiding his option.
"Harrison has looked good at SS and 2nd"
Harrison is not good at any defensive position, certainly not SS.
Harrison has looked good at SS and 2nd after working his butt off (literally). From the Post-Gazette article - Harrison spent the offseason at home in Cincinnati, working with athletic trainers who spend most of their time getting prospects ready for the NFL Scouting Combine. It's a similar routine to the one he has followed most of his offseasons.
I think I know what Outlaw means by (literally). Harrison has completely changed his physical appearance. He's no longer the chubby little rookie. I wish a certain No.2 overall draft pick would have put in the time and dedication to his body and craft as Harrison did this offseason.
""No, it was a 4 year contract. Two option years, which void if he is Arbitration eligible.""
"Alvarez may void 2013 option if otherwise eligible for arbitration."
Which he wouldn't be, even if he was on the 25 man roster for all of 2012 and 2013. His ab1 year would be 2014, in that scenario.
""He would have to spend the whole AAA season at Indy for that to matter. He will either be eligible for arbitration or a Super two in 2014, voiding his option.""
I think the whole super 2 thing was done away with, in the latest CBA. Meaning even a few months in AAA this season would leave him short of 3 years of MLB service, following the 2013 season.
"They have said numerous times that his defense has greatly improved due to his weight loss and agility work during the offseason."
Erroneous on all accounts. Haven't you heard? He's a chubster with zero work ethic. No weight has been lost, and no work (agility or otherwise) has ever been done by him. The only line he can guard is the buffet line.