Testimony in grievance called off as Pirates-Alvarez deal nears completion

NEW YORK -- Testimony was called off Tuesday as lawyers tried to complete a $6.355 million, four-year contract between third baseman Pedro Alvarez and the Pittsburgh Pirates and a settlement of a grievance filed by the players' union.

Arbitrator Shyam Das began hearing the case Sept. 10 and had scheduled additional testimony for Tuesday and Wednesday. In case a deal isn't reached, Wednesday's hearing date remained on hold.

Alvarez, the No. 2 pick in the June amateur draft, agreed to a minor league contract with a $6 million signing bonus minutes after the Aug. 15 deadline, and the union contended the commissioner's office and the Pirates could not move the deadline without consent of the players' association.

Under the contemplated agreement, Alvarez would receive a signing bonus in four $1.5 million installments, with one payment Dec. 24 and three payments each on June 15 starting in 2009.

He would be guaranteed annual salaries of $88,750 in the minor leagues. If he is on the major league roster during the season, he would get $400,000 next year, $500,000 in 2010, $550,000 in 2011 and $700,000 in 2012.

Under his original deal, Alvarez would have received his signing bonus in two installments of $3 million, payable 90 days after approval and next June 1.

The 21-year-old third baseman is seen as a key to the Pirates ending one of the longest losing runs in pro sports. They recently tied the 1933-48 Phillies' record of 16 consecutive losing seasons, the longest streak in any of the four major pro team sports.

Alvarez is a left-handed hitter, a plus for the Pirates because the right-field power alley at PNC Park is 15 feet shorter than in left field.

Alvarez, who played in high school at Horace Mann in the Bronx before going on to Vanderbilt, hit .349 with 49 homers and 51 doubles in 170 college games. He had 40 homers his first two seasons before a broken bone in his right hand caused him to miss 23 of Vanderbilt's first 24 games last season.