Today the Pittsburgh Pirates claimed Brent Morel off waivers from the Toronto Blue Jays. The move isn’t exactly inspiring. Morel doesn’t have good offensive numbers in his time at the major league level, and that includes any platoon splits. It’s normal for a waiver claim to lack noticeable appeal. The players who are on waivers were the guys who were the 40th best player on their former team’s 40-man roster. The better players who are designated for assignment usually get traded for a minimal return before they have a chance to hit waivers. So in most cases, a waiver claim isn’t going to bring an exciting player.
The addition of Morel seems to be about depth. The Pirates have no depth at third base behind Pedro Alvarez. Currently their internal options are the following.
Gaby Sanchez – I wrote about this earlier today. Sanchez was taking ground balls at third base this afternoon, and the Pirates plan to get him more time at the position this Spring. I’m not sure if that will still happen with Morel in the mix. But the reality here is that Sanchez is a first baseman making the jump to third base, and usually players don’t move from right to left in the infield. The fact that Sanchez looks like a top alternative says a lot about the third base depth.
Josh Harrison – He has played third base a lot in the minors and majors, but his .648 OPS in his brief major league career wouldn’t cut it. Morel’s numbers have been worse in the majors. The big appeal with Morel is that his defense is good, although Harrison has strong defense in a small sample size. Harrison is pretty much a utility player who can play a good third base, but doesn’t have the bat to fit the position. His best role on the team is platooning at second base with Neil Walker.
Matt Hague – Just like Sanchez, Hague has been getting reps at third base in the last few years to add some options. Also just like Sanchez, Hague mostly has success against left-handers. But this is another case of a first baseman trying to move across the diamond, which doesn’t lead to a strong option.
Jordy Mercer/Neil Walker – The Pirates could move one of these guys to third base, in theory. However, in doing so, they’d start a roster shuffle that would lead to Clint Barmes being an everyday starter, which would be a big downgrade offensively from Alvarez.
Russell Martin – Same concept as above, only Tony Sanchez would be the starter, which would be better than Barmes. However, this move doesn’t make any sense. Martin was arguably the best defensive catcher in 2013. His best value is behind the plate. It would be foolish to move him off a position that he excels at, and move him to a position that he technically can play, but probably doesn’t play very well due to a lack of experience.
Those are the options. It’s a pretty grim position. Morel isn’t exciting, but he adds another option to the mix. Unlike the rest of the group, Morel gives the Pirates an actual third baseman. He doesn’t do anything offensively, but his defense would be good. The rest of the options lack offense, or don’t have enough offense to make up for their lack of defense. And considering how many ground balls the Pirates get, it would make sense to focus on defense at third base if you don’t have a good option for offense.
Morel is basically a replacement level player. However, I’m not sure that the Pirates even have a replacement level player who could take over at third base if Alvarez goes down. Harrison might be the only other option I’d go with outside of Morel. So while Morel doesn’t look appealing in a vacuum, he does fit the Pirates need for depth at the third base position.
Links and Notes
**If you haven’t ordered your copy of the 2014 Prospect Guide, you had better act fast. I just opened up the last case of books today. I say that’s the last case because I don’t think I’ll be ordering more this year. Each year I order the books in bulk through the publisher, which allows me to save several dollars per book, and I pass that savings on to you to keep the price of the book low. You’ll still be able to buy the book from the publisher after I sell my supply, but the bulk discount price won’t be included, which means you’ll be paying $25, plus $3.99 for shipping. Right now you can buy the book for $25 shipped on the products page of the site.