First Pitch: Tarantino-ing the Poor Bench Moves Over the Last Few Years

If there’s one move that the Pirates have made which I’ve constantly disagreed with, it’s their approach with bench players. The Pirates have a horrible habit of giving out bench spots to aging veterans, while passing over their own internal options. I was reminded of this with today’s trade. I initially decided to point out all of the past situations where the Pirates have passed on their own internal players, instead looking at the “grass is greener” veteran player on the other side of the fence. I’ve written about this in the past, so to keep it fresh as I update it, I decided to go Quentin Tarantino style. No, it’s not full of bloodshed, and Samuel L. Jackson isn’t in it. It’s just, well, here it is.

 

Opening Credits

2012 Season

In 259 at-bats, Pedro Ciriaco hits for a .293/.315/.390 line with the Boston Red Sox.

Clint Barmes hits for a .229/.272/.321 line with the Pirates, while posting a 15.3 UZR/150 at short as the starter.

Jose Bautista gets 332 at-bats, hitting 27 homers with an .886 OPS.

Brandon Moss hits for a .291/.358/.596 line with 21 homers in 265 at-bats with the Oakland Athletics.

November 21, 2011

The Pirates sign Clint Barmes to a two-year deal worth $10.5 M, filling their starting shortstop position.

October 31, 2011

The Pirates decline the option of Ronny Cedeno, making him a free agent and opening up their starting shortstop job.

August 31, 2011

Matt Diaz is traded to the Atlanta Braves for a player to be named later after hitting for a .704 OPS against left-handers.

December 14, 2010

Matt Diaz is signed to a two-year deal to platoon with Garrett Jones in the outfield. Diaz, 33, is coming off a down year against left-handers with Atlanta, but has good career stats.

November 4, 2010

Brandon Moss is granted free agency by the Pittsburgh Pirates after 569 at-bats in the majors over three seasons, and a .667 OPS in that time.

2010 Season

Jose Bautista has a break out season and leads the majors with 54 home runs.

Bobby Crosby gets 156 at-bats from the start of the season to the trade deadline as the backup middle infielder.

Argenis Diaz receives 33 at-bats from the Pittsburgh Pirates.

April 8, 2010

The Pirates release Ramon Vazquez, eating his $2 M salary after he hits for a .230/.335/.279 line in 204 at-bats off the bench the previous season.

 

The Bautista Situation

August 21, 2008

The Pirates trade Jose Bautista to the Toronto Blue Jays, who claimed Bautista off waivers. In return they get Robinzon Diaz. Bautista hit for a .729 OPS in 314 at-bats in 2008 with the Pirates.

December 12, 2008

The Pirates sign Ramon Vazquez to a two-year deal worth $4 M.

2009-2010 Seasons

Jose Bautista makes $4.8 M combined through arbitration.

The Story

The Pirates basically gave Bautista away. He wasn’t hitting well, was pretty much established as a bench player, and was about to make multi-millions as a bench player. Almost four months later, the Pirates committed $2 M per year to an aging middle infielder with poor numbers outside of Texas.

What happened with Bautista wasn’t the fault of the Pirates. No one saw that coming. He took two years to go from an established bench player to the best player in baseball with Toronto. In the process he almost was non-tendered by the Blue Jays. For all we know, Bautista could have never made the adjustment with the Pirates, or with any other team.

What doesn’t make sense is dealing Bautista at a time when his value was low. The Pirates only had one trade option in August 2008, and that was Toronto. They basically dumped his salary, which wasn’t a bad move at the time. They just traded their best player and their only hope for winning in the immediate future. Why spent millions on a guy who is an established bench player? Only they went ahead and spent that money on Vazquez, who was an established bench player with poor road splits in his time with Texas. If they were going to spend the money anyway, why not keep the younger Bautista, rather than the aging Vazquez? It’s hindsight that Bautista had a breakout season. But you don’t need hindsight to know that a 28-year-old with a career .722 OPS has more upside than a 32-year-old with a .749 OPS outside of Texas the year before.

 

The Lonely Grave of Brandon Moss

July 31, 2008

The Pirates trade Jason Bay to the Boston Red Sox as part of a three team deal. In return they get Andy LaRoche, Bryan Morris, Brandon Moss, and Craig Hanson. Moss is considered the third biggest piece in the deal, and a potential starting outfielder.

January 18, 2013

The Oakland Athletics avoid arbitration with Brandon Moss, settling for $1.6 M. Moss has three years of arbitration remaining.

The Story

Moss is another situation where you could point to hindsight when talking about his post-Pirates success. He went to Philadelphia in 2011, after being released by the Pirates the previous off-season. He was a total surprise in Oakland, and not many people trust his numbers. But they did happen, and if they continue, Oakland has him for $1.6 M in 2013, and for three more years after that.

The Pirates only gave Moss 569 at-bats in the majors. He had 103 with Boston before that. This amount seems like a lot, but consider the Pirates dealt their biggest trade chip to get Moss and three other players. You’d think he would get more of a chance to prove himself. Instead, the Pirates brought in Lyle Overbay and Matt Diaz. Overbay was coming off a year where he hit for a .762 OPS in hitter friendly Toronto. He also looked like a platoon player at best, but was used as a regular. Diaz was coming off a down year as a platoon player. Both players were aging, while Moss was turning 27.

Maybe to a lesser extent you can excuse this move for hindsight. But why couldn’t the Pirates keep Moss around for a bench role? Why get rid of him so soon?

 

Mr. White…J-Mac

Now let’s get to today’s move. Today the Pirates added 38-year-old shortstop John McDonald from Arizona for a player to be named later or cash considerations. That will pretty much guarantee that he takes one of the final bench spots. The other spots are taken by Gaby Sanchez and Mike McKenry. At least one spot will go to an outfielder. My guess is that the other spot will go to a utility player like Brandon Inge or Josh Harrison. That means the acquisition of McDonald will most likely push Jordy Mercer and Ivan De Jesus Jr. to Triple-A.

The big strength with McDonald is his defense. He doesn’t have much of a bat, so he’ll be a strong defensive shortstop off the bench, unless he sees a regression.

 

I’ll get back to this.

 

Pedro Ciriaco didn't get much of a chance with the Pirates.

Pedro Ciriaco didn’t get much of a chance with the Pirates.

Inglourious Backups

July 22, 2009

The Pirates trade Adam LaRoche to the Boston Red Sox for Hunter Strickland and Argenis Diaz. Diaz is considered a top defensive shortstop prospect with no bat.

December 9, 2009

The Pirates sign 30-year-old shortstop Bobby Crosby to a one-year, $1 M deal to be the backup middle infielder. Crosby is touted for his defense at short. Many Sidney Crosby/Bobby Crosby jokes follow.

July 31, 2010

The Pirates trade D.J. Carrasco, Ryan Church, and Bobby Crosby to the Arizona Diamondbacks for Chris Snyder, Pedro Ciriaco, and cash. Ciriaco is considered a top defensive shortstop prospect with no bat.

December 2, 2010

Argenis Diaz is granted free agency by the Pittsburgh Pirates.

September, 2011

The Pirates enter the month with a 62-74 record, 18.5 games back in the NL Central.

Ronny Cedeno gets 47 at-bats, and starts 16 games.

Pedro Ciriaco gets 21 at-bats, and starts 3 games. He only had 33 at-bats the entire season.

December 12, 2011

Pedro Ciriaco is granted free agency by the Pittsburgh Pirates.

2013 Season

Pedro Ciriaco received $502,500 from the Boston Red Sox, who control his rights through the 2017 season.

Argenis Diaz is currently in Detroit’s farm system, spending the last few years in Triple-A.

The Story

Notice a trend here?

At the deadline in 2009 the Pirates acquired Argenis Diaz as one of the two pieces for Adam LaRoche. Diaz was a strong defensive shortstop with the upside of a backup. Diaz spent the 2009 season in Triple-A. He was 23 in 2010. Yet the Pirates signed Crosby for $1 M to be a strong defensive backup shortstop.

That same year they dealt Crosby, Ryan Church, and D.J. Carrasco for Chris Snyder and Pedro Ciriaco. It was pretty much Carrasco for Snyder and Ciriaco, with the rest of the deal being made to cover Snyder’s salary.

Almost four months later, Diaz is a free agent, despite only 33 at-bats in the majors. But the Pirates do have Pedro Ciriaco, who is an even better defensive shortstop.

Fast-forward to 2011. The Pirates are out of contention in September. It’s clear that Ronny Cedeno isn’t one of Clint Hurdle’s favorite players, and won’t be back the following year. Yet Cedeno starts 16 games that month, while Ciriaco starts three. They were clearly moving on from Cedeno. They weren’t contending. That’s the perfect time to give Ciriaco a shot to see what he can do.

Instead, Ciriaco is let go in the off-season, and Clint Barmes is brought in on a two-year, $10.5 M deal.

First of all, Argenis Diaz is how most of these situations play out. A guy is released and never heard from again. I included him to point that out, but also to help illustrate this next point.

Ciriaco went to Boston the very next year, got some plate appearances, and had a surprising year. Was it legit? Much like Brandon Moss in Oakland, no one really trusts the results. But if Ciriaco can do it again, the Red Sox have him for the league minimum in 2013, and under control through the 2017 season. If he’s just a strong defender who can hit some, that’s going to provide some value for a few years.

What if the Pirates decided to actually play Ciriaco at the end of the 2011 season? What if he hits the same way he did in Boston once he gets a chance? Does the team spend $10 M on Barmes? More importantly, why even trade for Argenis Diaz and Pedro Ciriaco if you’re not even going to use them? It can’t be due to their lack of upside as no-bat, all-defense shortstops. That was known at the time. That brings me to the final part.

 

Prospects Unchained

The Pirates have just added John McDonald. That’s probably going to push Jordy Mercer and Ivan De Jesus Jr. to Triple-A. It could also push Josh Harrison down. There’s not much room down there to begin with. Clint Robinson is at first. Matt Hague is at third. Jared Goedert could spend time at third or DH if he goes down. That would keep Matt Curry in Double-A. That also leaves two middle infield spots for Mercer, Harrison, and De Jesus. Plus d’Arnaud, when he returns.

Mercer was up and down a lot in 2012, but didn’t get much playing time. That was true even when Clint Barmes didn’t deserve to start every day. The Pirates just added De Jesus as one of four pieces in the Joel Hanrahan trade. He used to be a strong defensive shortstop before breaking his leg. He still shows some skill at the position, and one scout I talked with earlier this Spring liked him the best of the backup middle infield group. Is De Jesus going to be the next Diaz or Ciriaco?

Why even acquire these guys? The Pirates are a team that needs to build through young players. Some of the players they’ve acquired only have the upside of a bench player. Some of them had an opportunity to do more, and easing in to the majors on the bench would have been perfect — much like using a starter initially out of the bullpen. But the Pirates don’t turn to Diaz, Ciriaco, and De Jesus. They give that playing time to veterans who will be gone the following year. And what’s the upside? John McDonald had a 0.7 WAR in 2012. Jordy Mercer, in only 68 at-bats last year, had an 0.3 WAR. Even if that’s the difference, I’d trade 0.4 WAR to give the young players a chance and see if they can become more.

From a value standpoint, very few spots on the team are more worthless than the final spots on the bench. I’m also not a guy who buys the value of “veteran presence” from the bench. Don’t the Pirates already have “veteran presence” in Russell Martin and Clint Barmes? At what point does Garrett Jones get his “veteran presence”? And if they don’t have enough players, they should already have guys on the bench who are providing “veteran presence” — the coaches.

John McDonald isn’t going to play a big role on the 2013 club. So why even bother? Why not give any playing time to De Jesus or Mercer? Sure, there’s a chance that Clint Barmes goes down, and it’s not ideal to rely on inexperienced guys like De Jesus and Mercer as your starter. But Barmes and McDonald are both gone at the end of the 2013 season. Eventually you’re going to have to take the chains off the prospects and see what they can do.

If you don’t do this, then you’ll just see history repeating itself. Maybe it was total hindsight that Jose Bautista went on to become the best player in baseball. Maybe there was some hindsight involved when we look at Brandon Moss. I don’t think there would be any hindsight with Pedro Ciriaco if he proves to be legit, since the Pirates didn’t even give him a shot. They’re all different situations, but the moves behind them are the same. The Pirates chose to give bench spots to aging veterans — paying those veterans millions — and cast off younger players who went on to have breakout seasons.

That type of move is probably going to end up with an Argenis Diaz situation more often than not. If you do it too many times, you’ll get a Ciriaco, or a Moss, or worse, a Bautista. The Pirates seem to be continuing this approach. McDonald will take the spot of a younger player. We won’t get to see what that younger player can do in the majors. McDonald will provide minimal value. The Pirates will be left with unproven young players and an open shortstop position after the 2013 season, just like they were after the 2011 season when they didn’t give Ciriaco a chance. Eventually they’ll need to give a young player a shot. Wouldn’t it be better if that young player was getting playing time as a backup in 2013, rather than as a starter in 2014? That’s assuming they trust the young players in 2014, rather than signing another veteran for the job.

Links and Notes

**I mentioned earlier in the week that I was sick with a fever and a sore throat on Sunday. It got worse tonight, to the point where I couldn’t drink water without pain. I went to the doctor and found out it’s strep throat. So I’m going to take a day off tomorrow and let the antibiotics and the Airborne go to work. I’ve got 3-4 articles that I’ve been working on, plus a few interviews to transcribe, so I’ll have some content on the site throughout the day. I just want to stay away from people for a day or two. I’ll probably end up watching Kill Bill.

**Pirates Acquire Infielder John McDonald, d’Arnaud to DL.

**Minor League Injury Updates: Chambers, Pribanic, Fuesser, Hornback.

**Bryan Morris Gets a Fourth Option Year.

**Pirates Release Six Minor Leaguers; Lakind Converted to Pitching.

**Prospect Notebook: Alex Dickerson’s Back Problems Could Have a Solution.

**How Did Vic Black Get His Unusual Delivery?

**From yesterday, James Santelli’s first article on the site: Pirates Projected Among NL’s Top Four Benches. Sure enough, one day later the bench looks different.

Tim Williams

Author: Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/bill.kline.547 Bill Kline

    Argenis Diaz is with Detroit and spent his whole time there in AAA

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

      Thanks. I knew he was with Detroit last year. I thought I saw something about him being a free agent, but couldn’t find it.

  • michaelbro8

    Hey Tim; always respect your opinion, but when you bring up Joey bats and the Bucs, please stop. Every other team in baseball also passed on the guy. And IMO, it wasn’t until he found the steroid “work-around” that he became who he is now. It will come out in the wash. But it definitely is not one of the failings of Bucs management

    • Cocktailsfor2

      I, too, am up to here with Joey Bats stories, but I don’t think Tim dwells on it too heavily here (and it’s certainly in context with the rest of the story), and he does point out that even TOR almost released him as well, and that there wasn’t much more the Pirates could have done that they hadn’t already.

      My $0.02

      • http://twitter.com/beatembuccos21 beatembuccos21

        I agree with Tim 100% on Bautista. Forgetting entirely about what he became (that is, what every other team in baseball passed on) and just look at what he was: a valuable super utility guy. The Pirates traded him for someone stuck behind two other catchers in the Toronto system and then signed an older, less capable replacement for Bautista at a mild cost savings. Those two moves together are bad even if Bautista never became a stud. So, yes, it is a failing of Pirate management. It only becomes glaring when Bautista’s success if factored in.

        • http://www.facebook.com/david.donahue.100 whiteAngus

          but bautista wasnt a valuable utility guy. he was about to be an overpriced player with no position. he couldnt field 3B, he could barely field in the OF. he wasnt improving at the plate, and since we’re using hindsight here, wasnt listening to the coaches.

          no one knew that something would finally click inside of Bautista’s head. not even toronto who nearly let the guy go.

          the real negative is that we traded him for a guy who had no chance of success. bautista was dumped for a guy not on a 25 man roster, and thats it.

    • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

      Huntington has come out and said he should’ve kept Bautista and over reacted. That’s good enough for me.

      Yes, he would’ve made a fine utility IFer at the very least….

      That ship has sailed.

      • http://www.facebook.com/david.donahue.100 whiteAngus

        hard to be a UT infielder when you cant field any of the infield positions.

        • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

          He was okay/avg at 3b. I guess I should say 3b/OF util guy.

          Foo

          .

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

      Did you skip this part?

      “What happened with Bautista wasn’t the fault of the Pirates. No one saw that coming. He took two years to go from an established bench player to the best player in baseball with Toronto. In the process he almost was non-tendered by the Blue Jays. For all we know, Bautista could have never made the adjustment with the Pirates, or with any other team.”

  • tlstates

    What I don’t understand is when Huntington said, in regards to this trade, “the depth we had, we suddenly didn’t have anymore” or something to that effect. D’arnaud may end up being the solution, but him going down doesn’t mean that all of a sudden Mercer, DeJesus and Harrison can’t play. I just hope Inge doesn’t make the team.

    • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

      that WAS an inexplicable statement!

      /

  • Cocktailsfor2

    I was always a big Moss fan / supporter, even after it became clear that he wasn’t going to be very productive for the Pirates.

    I agree that, in a down year, he should have played more so we could see what he could do, but [A] there was little to no chance that Russell was going let that happen, since he was in the “keep my job” mode and [B] Moss had pretty much dug himself into a hole that only a change of scenery (or revamp of his swing) would fix.

    I hope like heck that my boy Jose Tabata gets one more chance to pull it out. Love that kid.

    • http://www.facebook.com/david.donahue.100 whiteAngus

      yet no one is mentioning that Moss K’d in 1/3 of his ABs in 2012. people only notice the 21 dingers that he hit.
      .
      sure, his OPS was very nice, but turn a few of those HRs into long fly outs and hes back to being a bench player.

      • http://www.facebook.com/david.donahue.100 whiteAngus

        people know that im no fan of metrics so i’ll still use one to show the sabres out there that Moss’ numbers were exaggerated…
        .
        Moss BABIP in 2012: .359

        • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

          Hitters BABIP isn’t like pitchers BABIP. .359 would be extremely unlucky for pitchers, since they usually average around .300.

          A hitter can average higher or lower than that, but usually stays in his own range throughout his career. In the majors, Moss has a .306 BABIP. But look at his years in Triple-A:

          2007: .372
          2008: .345
          2010: .306
          2011: .334
          2012: .289

          There were a few seasons where he had really high BABIPs. Will he stay as a .291 hitter with power? I doubt it. But I could see him being a .260-.270 hitter with power.

          • http://www.facebook.com/david.donahue.100 whiteAngus

            well, i would counter with Triple A aint the Show, guv’nah.
            .
            If Moss doesnt repeat his 2012, he’ll get another shot to add onto those Triple A numbers. with his 5th MLB, no less.

            • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

              Most hitters have the same BABIP range no matter what level they’re at.

          • https://profiles.google.com/116255365477483987850 jalcorn

            Ti9m you should know better than to use minor league babip to compare to MLB. Almost all MLB talent have very high minor league babips.

            There is no way that a flyball guy like Moss with a 30% K rate will ever come close to his 2012 numbers.

            • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

              As I said above, most players have the same BABIP range no matter what level they’re at.

      • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

        Couldn’t you say the same thing about Alvarez? Moss struck out 30.4% of the time. Alvarez struck out 30.7% of the time.

        • http://www.facebook.com/david.donahue.100 whiteAngus

          true, except that Pedro is a pure power guy while Moss is a tweener. either way, 31% is too high for anyone.
          .
          plus Moss has done this for 4 major league teams, while Pedro is working on his 3rd full major league season.

          • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

            Moss has 943 at-bats. Alvarez has over 1100. My point here is that pointing to a guy’s strikeout numbers, then discounting the home runs he actually hit doesn’t work. You can take the same approach with Alvarez, or any high strikeout/high HR guy.

  • dcpinpgh

    How this theory, the reason the Purares kept spending money on older middle infielders was to keep the union and/or MLB off their backs. The Pirates could say, while we are building with youth(read cheap) we are still spending money, in some established(read union members) players on the roster.

  • https://profiles.google.com/116255365477483987850 jalcorn

    Nice write up Tim, I think you forgot Luis Cruz who is the Dodgers starting 3B, given away on waivers. Maybe I missed it.

    I have often struggled with why this FO doesn’t trust their mid level prospects as bench options. The Cards have made a habit of turning C prospects into useful big leaugers, while we fritter away youth for over the hill vets.

    • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

      You mean 29 year old Luis Cruz who has passed thru a number of organizations?

      Hard to fault the Bucs for that!

      http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/c/cruzlu01.shtml

      • https://profiles.google.com/116255365477483987850 jalcorn

        Yeah, that Cruz who was a Pirate on a team that needed SS help and was given away in favor of players who turned out to be worse. Cruz was 25 when he was a Pirate.

        That’s the point here, you can make all the excuses you want (most of them are pretty valid), but it doesn’t change the fact that the Pirates have given away more talented options for less talented ones on the bench. It has largely stemmed from wanting experienced vets over young players. It is long past time to give the kids a shot and stop opting for retreads.

        • http://www.facebook.com/david.donahue.100 whiteAngus

          except that the pirates rarely have an excellent young player to give up on.
          .
          luiz cruz??? really??

          • https://profiles.google.com/116255365477483987850 jalcorn

            No one is talking about “excellent talent” this is a discussion of bench decisions.

            Like it or not, but Cruz was much better in 2012 than the crap we had/have on our bench.

            • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

              if you say so….

              not a luis cruz fan.

            • http://www.facebook.com/david.donahue.100 whiteAngus

              it doesnt mean that Cruz would have been good on the pirates bench.
              .
              but heres a question: Cruz will be 30 soon. would you aquire him as your backup or would you let a youngster have the job?

              • https://profiles.google.com/116255365477483987850 jalcorn

                You would not have had to acquire him, he would be still under team control.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

    Tim…I am and still am a big Ciriaco fan (and Jordy Mercer fan).

    So I am with you on this.

    Not sure why we wanted McDonald, John.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

    Tim….I will again echo what I said on another post:

    YOUR HEALTH IS RESPONSIBILITY NUMBER ONE!

    GET SOME REST AND GET WELL!!!!!!!!

    Strep Throat is nothing to be trifled with!!!!! I’ll send some prayers your way.

    Foo

    .

  • http://www.facebook.com/david.donahue.100 whiteAngus

    soapbox time for the angus:
    .
    lets say Mercer is the best SS we have in the upper system right now. do we want the guy sitting on the bench in the Show, or do we want him playing every day in AAA to work on his game, to work on his timing???
    .
    it is very hard to be successful sitting on the bench. it is very hard to put up an real numbers when you see one or two games a week at most. it takes a special breed of player for this role.
    .
    and why put a young player in there for it? mcdonald was aquired because hes an elite glove. at least he has something going for him. mercer, dejesus, d’arnaud, harrison… not a one of these guys is considered a real prospect. the only one with a true above average skill is d’arnaud with his speed.
    .
    IMO, mercer is nothing more than a future UT guy. but hes still young enough to be more than that. if he truly is our best option at SS behind Barmes then sitting him on the bench solves nothing. he should be working on his game in AAA. if barmes goes down how hard is it to call Mercer up??? you call him up and keep McDonald as the UT guy.
    .
    but if Mercer isnt the best option after Barmes then it makes it easier to keep him on the MLB roster. but Mercer arguably is the best option. so leave him in AAA, let him play every day. if we need him, call him up. we can all pull our panties out our crack now.

    • https://profiles.google.com/116255365477483987850 jalcorn

      Mercer is not a starting MLB starting SS, he is at best a bench option. Its time for him to prove that he can be useful in that role. There is no point in seasoning him more as a starter in AAA while we watch other guys that can’t hit play in Pittsburgh.

      • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

        jalcorn….I am a big Mercer fan, but I am starting to think he will never be anything in the bigs. On the one hand, I agree with Angus….I’d rather see him playing in AAA. On the other hand, the way the Bucs have treated him, he doesn’t have the look of a future MLB SS.
        .
        But, then, based on their Middle IF shenanigans, would they know a MLB SS if one bit them in the butt?

      • http://www.facebook.com/david.donahue.100 whiteAngus

        i understand your reasoning, but how does sitting Mercer going to help the team?
        .
        I mean, did you forget whom our manager is? how much PT will Mercer actually receive?
        .
        we only need one guy who can back up SS and thats obviously McDonald. Theres absolutely no reason to keep Mercer sitting on the bench. Nada.

        • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

          Yeah…agree…Hurdle can’t manage a bench to save his life.

          I guess, if Mercer ain’t starting here, he’s better off starting in AAA.

        • https://profiles.google.com/116255365477483987850 jalcorn

          Fair point, CH likes to let the backup SS rot. I would not opt to do so if I were on the bench.

          The only plus side I see with McDonald is that CH can pinch hit for Barmes more aggressively since he has a great glove guy available. That might very well work out well.

    • Ecbucs

      IF Mercer is the best option, I can see the team wanting to start Mercer at Indy, have him get at bats and then come up and replace Barmes ASAP. Barmes has no future with team, his salary is sunk cost.

      He needs to be dealt or moved to bench at least by mid-season so that next year’s shortstop can play (hopefully Mercer).
      Otherwise the team is going to be looking for the 2014 version of Barmes and will end up paying a lot of money to fill shortstop with average at best production.

  • bohringer9

    I really like the McDonald deal. I explained on another thread why I feel improving the bench can be a effective strategy. I didn’t like the Bautista deal at the time of the trade, because he was valuable as a utility man, and spending an extra million on the bench can get a better than market value return. The other deals here that was really about bench players (the Barmes and Cedeno situations were more about starting time) were the backup infielders and Moss. I felt we gave Moss plenty of chances as a starter and then as a bench player and I thought he was ineffective at both. I could be wrong about his time as a bench player. The deals that made me the most angry were the ones where we signed veteran middle infielders that couldn’t play shortstop (Vasquez, Crosby, Chris Gomez?). These guys had essentially no value. I think McDonald is as good (poor) hitter as those guys, and is a lot better defensively, and inexpensive. He’s not taking away a starting position from Mercer or De Jesus. I was hoping the Pirates would sign Cedeno after the Cards released him, but I like this move better. If Barmes goes on the DL, then we can let one of the young guys play. And as far as Harrison goes, I love the guy, but it’s a good sign if he’s not able to make the bench.

    • Y2JGQ2

      Well guys- I agree here. What is the point? Dejesus I think could be a good player. Lets examine something real quick- why is he NOT considered a prospect anymore other than because of his age? Any takers? He has hit extremely well everywhere and even though his range is less after the broken leg, he’s solid at anywhere in the infield. How is he any different than Freddy Sanchez? I think he can play, he isn’t old, and would be a better all around player than Barmes is now. Mercer MAY be able to hit in the majors, noone would know because noone gives him a shot. He has hit for power in the minors, so what is to lose by giving him a job and finding out what he does. The game HASN’T been played yet, so why do people just not give people a chance to succeed who have succeeded in the lower levels? Who really knows how good Mercer could be? NOONE! Let him play, let Dejesus play.

  • leadoff

    Seems like there are two columns written here, the first is about utility players and the second is about players that failed when given the chance to be starters and were given up on.
    IMO, the bench and how it is handled is one of the indicators of how good a manager is.
    Murtaugh was very good, Tanner was great at it, Russell sucked at it, Hurdle sucks at it. Thus we come to the real problems with the bench. Hire a manager that knows how to use one and get the most mileage out of his players. IMO, Huntington did not get the wrong players he got the wrong people to utilize those players. Overbay could be starting for the Red Sox this year, Hinsky was very valuable after he was traded, look at how many of these players were very successful when they left Pittsburgh. Hurdle only plays 22-23 players from his 25, of course they can’t succeed they need reps, they need to sit McCutchen, Walker, Alvarez once a week and let the bench player play a whole game and don’t double switch these guys in 4th inning. I could write a whole column on this, but it only depresses me.

    • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

      leadoff…Hurdle’s use of his bench is just ONE of many beefs I have with him. Definitely not a Clint fan.

      .

    • http://twitter.com/millec311 millec311

      What? The start of the year had a bench of Mclouth, Navarro, Harrison, Hague. The bench sucked because they’re all God-awful players. Clint Hurdle can’t turn dog shit into

      • http://twitter.com/millec311 millec311

        Ohhh I forgot the great Casey Mcgehee. My bad. The bench was phenomenal

  • Ecbucs

    If NH has hired wrong manager it is another tick in the column to get rid of NH. He evaluated Hurdle and gave him an extension. So he must be satisfied with how he uses the roster.

    Nh keeps acquiring veteran utility players who continue to perform poorly for the Pirates.

    If the Bucs think Mercer has any future with team, why not make him utility player this year and see that he starts a couple times a week (why didn’t he get to start for 7 or 8 straight games last September?)

    IMO, NH has only shown himself to be an average GM at best. And a team in the Pirates situation needs a great GM. The sooner one is found the better.

    • http://www.facebook.com/david.donahue.100 whiteAngus

      name one thats on the market. hell, name 5 that isnt.

    • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

      I am an NH fan because of where he has put the system.
      .
      As for managers I am NOT a Clint fan. I wonder how many of these deals are Clint’s idea (“hey Neal…I need a REAL backup SS not some kid”) .

      Clint has proven that he can manage a losing team. He HASN’T proven he can take the next step.

      • http://www.facebook.com/david.donahue.100 whiteAngus

        not including the World Series year, right Foo?

        • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

          Take away an incredibly hot month that came out of nowhere and he was a losing manager.

          ANYONE can get hot for a month. Just ask Marty Bystrom, Hurricane Hazle, etc.

          • http://twitter.com/millec311 millec311

            I don’t think just anyone can take a team with the 5th lowest payroll and win 13 out of the last 14 games then sweep their way in each round to the world series.

            That sounds like the type of manager the pirates need

  • leadoff

    A GM has to wear many hats and most have some strong points and some weak points, IMO, NH has done a lot good things for this organization including putting it on the right path. Has he made mistakes? Sure he has, if that is all you can grade him on, then he is a bad GM, but if you grade him out overall, he is doing a very good job with what he has to work with.
    As far as hiring a manager, he did hire a mid tier manager and he is getting mid tier results. The hiring of a manager might not be left up to Huntington entirely, it “could” be that the manager is a budgeted item and he only has so much money to spend on a manager. Hurdle is in the 2mil catagory, if you want to go to the next tier your looking at about 4mil. If you are looking at the 2mil price tag Hurdle is probably as good as you are going to get.
    It is also possible that a top tier manager might not want to come to an organization that cannot spend as freely as needed at times.

  • emjayinTN

    Regardless of what happened in our distant or recent past, the only thing that matters is the present, and I see a very wise move in getting John McDonald as the primary utility infielder based on the following:

    1. d’Arnaud is injured again, and Harrison and Mercer are not MLB Caliber SS, and that is one of the key spots we need to fill.
    2. Ivan DeJesus, Jr. has had an excellent off-season beginning in Puerto Rico where he won the batting title, and in ST with the Pirates where he has done better than any of our middle infielders. If he has an option remaining he should be sent to AAA as the starting SS where he can get the reps he needs to have an opportunity to be our starting SS later in 2013, and then taking over from Barmes in 2014. The Dodgers put him at 2B when he returned after losing a year to a leg injury, and Boston kept him there because they did not need a 6th or 7th SS prospect at AAA. He is a very good SS and an excellent hitter.
    3. McDonald is the best utility infielder available in the majors with a career .973 fielding percentage at SS, and over .980 as a 2B.
    4. It is ridiculous to build a strong pitching staff that throws a lot of ground balls, and then throw guys like Harrison in the field – he never played SS in college, only 2 or 3 games in the minors, and zero in the majors until Hurdle tried to make him our backup.