The acquisition today of shortstop John McDonald by the Pirates says several things:
* The team has zero confidence in the ability of Josh Harrison to play shortstop and nearly zero confidence in all phases of Jordy Mercer’s game.
* It probably spells the end of third baseman Brandon Inge’s bid to make the team, although that likely was going to happen without McDonald.
* The Pirates are attempting to corner to market on veteran light-hitting shortstops.
McDonald, 38, comes with a $1.5 million contract, which means he’s going to make the team. He is the quintessential weak-hitting infielder who has carved out an MLB career that dates back to 1999 on the strength of his defensive play. He will spell regular shortstop Clint Barmes and can be used at second and third base.
This is McDonald’s career line: .239/.279/.331 -- .608
This is Barmes’ career line: .249/.298/.390 -- .668
The fact he has played so long on the MLB level with such inferior offensive credentials speaks to McDonald's ability with the glove.
Only once in his career has McDonald batted more than 300 times and only twice has he played in over 100 games. He has shown some ability, in limited use, as a pinch-hitter. He’s 13-for-49 (.245) career in the pinch.
Although McDonald comes with light credentials, unless he has nothing left this is a good move. The Pirates are making certain they have someone who can handle the most important defensive position in the field when Barmes is not in the game.
In other words, unlike last season, they are not treating the bench like an ugly step-child.
McDonald played 54 games at shortstop last season, five at third and four at second. In his career he has played 555 games at shortstop, 205 at second and 127 at third.
The slim chance Mercer had of making the 25-man roster is gone. With Chase d’Arnaud on the 60-day disabled list, Mercer probably will by the starting shortstop at Indianapolis. At 26, this probably indicates the Pirates see him to be, at the most, at utility player.
The makeup of the five-man bench, when the Pirates carry 12 pitchers, looks like this: Platoon first baseman Gaby Sanchez, backup catcher Michael McKenry, McDonald, outfielder Jose Tabata and Harrison.