Pirates Acquire Infielder John McDonald, d’Arnaud to DL

Ken Rosenthal reports that the Pittsburgh Pirates have acquired infielder John McDonald:

The Diamondbacks have been trying to deal McDonald since they don’t have room for him, according to Rosenthal about a week ago. It’s not known how he fits in with the Pirates. Perhaps a better way to say that is that it’s not known why he would be acquired. Chase d’Arnaud recently went down for 6-8 weeks after surgery on a torn ligament on his hand. The Pirates have Ivan De Jesus Jr., Jordy Mercer, and Josh Harrison battling for backup infield jobs. McDonald hasn’t hit much, but provides strong defense. He’s only under control through the 2013 season, so he’s not a replacement for Clint Barmes. He’s also making $1.5 M in 2013. I’m not sure that the defensive upgrade from a backup middle infielder with no bat is worth $1.5 M, and worth passing on one of the internal options.

No word yet on what the Pirates would be sending Arizona. I can’t imagine it’s anything significant.

UPDATE 1:14 PM: Just thinking about how this move impacts the infield bench battle…

The Pirates tend to have two backup infielders. One of those infielders always seems to be a shortstop that never plays, is strong defensively, and is the last guy off the bench. I could see McDonald taking that role. If that happens, it would mean that Jordy Mercer, Josh Harrison, Ivan De Jesus Jr., and Brandon Inge would be battling it out for the other spot, which tends to be a utility infield spot.

Harrison and Inge would seem to have the advantage here, since they can play second, third, and the outfield. Jordy Mercer has also played third in the past, and can play second, but doesn’t provide that outfield option. If I had to guess, I’d say this is bad news for Mercer and De Jesus, since their main value is shortstop.

I still don’t understand the need for McDonald. He’s a good backup infielder, but I don’t think he’s going to be better than the internal options. He’s also 38 years old and would cost $1 M more than either De Jesus or Mercer. As someone who doesn’t believe in veteran presence from bench players, that’s not a good combo.

As David Todd points out, the Pirates don’t have a strong replacement for Clint Barmes if Barmes gets injured. McDonald could step in and provide strong defense, although he wouldn’t do anything with the bat. I’m a believer that Jordy Mercer could be a replacement at short if Barmes went down, but he’s unproven, and the Pirates don’t seem to want to give him a chance. I also talked to a scout earlier in camp who felt Ivan De Jesus Jr. was the best backup middle infield option the Pirates had, and a guy who could replace Barmes. So I would agree with David that they don’t have someone who is proven, but I do think Mercer or De Jesus deserve a shot. At some point you’re going to have to give one of those guys a shot. Otherwise, why even acquire someone like De Jesus?

UPDATE 2:13 PM Chase d’Arnaud has been moved to the 60 day disabled list to make room on the roster for McDonald. As mentioned above, d’Arnaud will be out 6-8 weeks after surgery on his hand. The official deal is now McDonald for a player to be named later, or cash.

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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, 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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  • wkkortas

    He can play shortstop, as opposed to just sort of standing there like Harrison, but why you need McDonald when you have a cheaper and likely better option in Mercer is a mystery.

  • SportOMania

    They seem to have no faith in Mercer. Hopefully this means the end of Inge.

  • espada14

    In 2012, his splits against lefties were very good. That have anything to do with it? Play him some at 2B?

  • capirate

    Not a fan of this move. Seems like our backup infielders will probably be Inge & McDonald from the baseball geriatric set.

    Maybe they want Mercer to play every day at AAA this year so he can be a bench player behind some 35 year old SS next year. I wouldn’t be surprised if they extend Barmes for another year or two.

  • MrAwesomeWVU

    Neal Huntington’s ugly fetish with middle infielders is right up (and beyond) David Littlefield’s penchant for middle relievers. I mean seriously how many middle INF have been in a Pirate uniform? DeJesus is out of options but I feel he has done well enough to be a bench bat. Mercer will be sent down but I feel he improved greatly during Spring Training. If Barmes was injured then I understand the move for D purposes. But this is a serious head scratcher.

    • Tim Williams

      De Jesus isn’t on the 40-man, so his option status doesn’t matter.

  • bohringer9

    I don’t think Mercer or De Jesus Jr. are regulars, and while they have the options left on them the intend to use them. I think McDonald is a small bus significant upgrade, as his defense is really solid at three positions. I also would say he’s closer to Barmes last year with the bat, so while not good, I think he’s better than a replacement player when playing SS. I don’t think Harrison better than a replacement level player at short, third, or the outfield, and barely at second base. I think Inge is the clear favorite for the last bench spot, since I think he has more value than Harrison at every position they both play, and first base. I like this move a lot, as it only cost about $1 million and a ptbnl, and gives us a real clear upgrade.

  • steelerpiratepenguin

    another trade brewing?

  • Andy Zibuck

    Just what in the hell are Mercer’s exact shortcomings here? Are there holes in his swing? In what regard? Is he below average with the glove? His profile on this site suggests otherwise, as do many eyes. So just what gives that the org seems to think so little of him?

    • scottklima

      Only thing I can see is that he won’t be playing full time in the majors this year, so might as well get him lots of ABs in AAA. He better get a chance next season to replace Barmes.

  • Todd Smith

    Josh Harrison: .233/.279/.345, -9.8 UZR/150 @ SS
    John McDonald: .249/.295/.386, +8.5 UZR/150 @ SS

    Seems like a solid upgrade to me.

    • jg941

      You conveniently left out the actual comparisons, which are Mercer and DeJesus, who both have more value at the position than McDonald

      • Todd Smith

        Jordy Mercer: .210/.265/.371
        Ivan DeJesus: .205/.253/.247
        John McDonald: .249/.295/.386

        Seems like a solid upgrade to me.


  • scottklima

    Letting Mercer play everyday in AAA makes sense to me. McDonald is a HUGE upgrade over Harrison defensively, so maybe Harrison’s time with the Pirates finally ends. I would prefer DeJesus or Harrison over Inge, but I’m afraid that won’t happen.

    McDonald honestly is a better bench option than anyone they have now. If Barmes goes down, then Mercer should come up for a full time role. I doubt McDonald ever plays full time this season.

  • jg941

    Scott/Todd – regardless of what you believe they all are, what they all actually are are 0.3 WAR backup middle infielders, except McDonald will now cost us $1 million more per year than any of the others while adding NO additional value.

    Still seem like an upgrade? If you think so, please explain how.

    • Todd Smith

      Oh noes! The Pirates are spending too much money! And we get no additional value (other than the better offense and defense). DOOOOOM!

  • KGBPrime

    I can’t help but think that the Bucs primarily picked up McDonald because the injury to d’Arnaud opened up a roster spot, which allows the Bucs more time than Arizona to try to trade him elsewhere. If the Bucs can flip McDonald for more than they gave up to get him, then it was a solid move. If they can’t flip McDonald, then they made a lateral move for MI depth at minimal cost (other than perhaps the blow to the confidence of Mercer or DeJesus, and an extra $1 million in salary). Either way, the move appears to me to be a wash, with a chance to turn into a small net positive.

  • Ron Loreski

    McDonald’s addition is only to show increase in payroll for a later excuse.

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