Jordy Mercer Taking More of a Leadership Role With the Younger Players

PITTSBURGH — As I’ve been writing about what Pirates players hope to accomplish in the final weeks of the 2017 season, for the most part, I had a good idea going into the conversation what the answers were going to be.

When it came to Jordy Mercer, I had no clue.

Mercer, 31, is one of the more experienced players in the Pirates’ clubhouse. He’s having a fantastic year at the plate, having already eclipsed his single-season home run total with 14. His previous best was 12 in 2014. His .739 OPS is the highest it’s been since he was a rookie in 2013, and he’s done it all hitting in the No. 8 spot in the order.

His fielding has also improved this year. He has 1 Defensive Run Saved, up from negative-9 last year and his highest total since 2014. His 1.4 WAR is also the best since 2014 and he’s been pretty healthy, playing in 136 games thus far.

Mercer is arbitration eligible for 2018 and seems a lock to be offered a tender, so he has little pending contract drama. That’s not to say that there aren’t things Mercer and any other big league player has to work on, but for the most part, Mercer has to feel pretty good about where his game is right now.

So when I approached him about what he’s looking for the rest of the season, it was more about the team than it was about him.

Mercer isn’t all that far removed from being a young MLB player, having just established himself as an MLB regular in 2013. But he’s now one of the few established veterans in the clubhouse that will be with this team moving forward. Of position players, it’s 34-year-old David Freese, 32-year-old Sean Rodriguez, and Mercer and Francisco Cervelli at 31 that are holding down the senior end of the Pirates’ roster.

Because of that, Mercer has taken an increased role in helping out those players that are still getting their first taste of Major League Baseball. He sees some parallels between the current group of young Pirates and the one that he came up with in 2012 that included Starling Marte, Jared Hughes, Brock Holt and Jeff Locke, among others.

“They’re winning in the minor leagues and that what we did as well,” Mercer said. “You can see through the course of the year that they’ve brought guys in and they’ve helped us whichever way they could. That’s the prefect example of developing you guys to winning ways. That’s what we did. We all came up together and stayed in one group.”

It’s not just what Mercer can teach the youngsters technique-wise. A large part of success at the major-league level is adjusting to the grind of an 162-game season, and part of that is getting through September. Mercer was quick to point out that even though these games don’t mean anything to the team’s success, if he wants to keep that .739 OPS going into an arbitration hearing, he’s going to have to perform right until the final out.

“September for me, everybody is tired,” Mercer said. “Your legs are heavy. The young kids don’t quite get it yet. They will eventually. For me, it’s just about pushing through it grinding through it, and knowing that the season is almost over, but you still have some meaningful games left. They all count. That was the most important thing for me growing up. September is tough because you’re tired and you’re mentally tired, too, but if you’re mentally able to grind through it, these games count as much as they did in April or May.”

  • it’s a good thing PABLO REYES is going to make us all forget about Jordy in a couple years

    #AllAboardThePabloReyesHypeTrain

  • After this season I wonder who will stay and who will go. You have newman in Indy and tucker in Altoona and he is ready to move up but jordy and newman are blocking him. I wonder if we will see a different outfield and infield and maybe even pitching staff then what we have now. NH might blow this team up!!

    • I’d like to think Tucker is ready for AAA, but his numbers at Altoona were very similar to Newman’s in ’16 and Kevin surely struggled at Indy at times this season.

      Newman needs a little more time at Indy next year, and a couple of months at AA for Tucker wouldn’t be the worst thing.

      Having someone as good as Jordy as a bridge is a very good thing for the Pirates right now.

    • michael schalke
      September 15, 2017 9:17 am

      We all should hope and pray he blows it up.

  • “Mercer is arbitration eligible for 2018 and seems a lock to be offered a tender, so he has little pending contract drama.”

    I don’t see Mercer getting a tender. I think if they can sign him in the $5m-$6m range before the tender deadline, then he’ll be back. But he stands to make about $7m -$8m in arb, and I don’t think they want to go that high with him.

    I think if it comes down to going to trial, they’ll let him go and take a chance with Moroff and Serpico until either Newman or Tucker is ready.

    • If they were do allow him to walk to save a dime (which I see as possible with this penny pinching ownership group), that would weaken the team. It would be pennywise and pound foolish in my opinion. Moroff is no replacement for Jordy by a long shot. He’s a utility guy at best.

      • As they’ve always said, they apply a value to each player and position. They rarely, if ever, exceed it.

        I really think he’ll sign and not go to trial.

    • At today’s market rate, Mercer is probably worth $7m – $8m. Since the Pirates don’t have an obvious replacement who can be as good or better next year, I would be shocked if the Pirates don’t resign him. Serpico is not an everyday shortstop and Moroff has little MLB experience yet.

      • This site values 1 war about around $6m. At a WAR of 1.4, figure he’s worth, as you said the $7m to $8m range.

        As I said below, I think he signs before the non-tender deadline.

    • They wont non tender him. He wont “settle” when he knows his arbitration value, unless it is for a multi year deal.

      • If they think he’ll ask for a number over his internal value they’ll non-tender him instead of risking losing arb.

    • There is no way the Pirates work with Jordy…at the very worst (for the team) he’s traded.

    • The baseline for arbitration is your previous season’s salary which for Mercer is just higher than 4 million and arbitration more favorably rewards hitting, especially power, over defense. So what about this season leads you to believe Jordy will almost double his salary in arbitration?

  • Not sure why Mercer doesn’t get more love from the commenters on this site. He is a solid shortstop that can field the position and hit a little with some extra base power. I am not at all sure that Newman will replace him. Newman does not seem to be able to hit enough to secure the position and his fielding might not be the equal of Mercer. The Pirates need Mercer as their shortstop.

    • I agree completely. They will miss him when he is gone — I think this is his last year of arbitration? I presume they won’t extend him beyond but it would be a good idea for them to do that. I can’t see Jordy taking anything other than a 3 year deal.

      • The problem is they just can’t afford to pay Jordy what it would take to extend him for 3 years even on a friendly deal given their other needs.

        Would be less of a problem if Newman had taken a step forward this year instead of regressing.

        Hopefully Tucker is ready by 2019 or Newman remembers how to be league average hitter or better at Indy next year.

        • You are right. Jordy’s impending free agency and newman’s likely timetable as a (hopefully) productive major leaguer are a year or two off.

        • They can absolutely afford to pay Jordy, and I’ll be extremely surprised if he gets 33-35 yo seasons guaranteed on the open market.

          • I’m not arguing to extend Jordy. I don’t know what kind of offers he gets either. At that point in time (given age and recent performance) I doubt Mercer projects for much than 1 year seasons(if that) from 33-35 so they are better off rolling with youngsters anyway as far as I’m concerned.

            • “The problem is they just can’t afford to pay Jordy what it would take …”

              That’s the only part I was commenting on. I don’t see how finances would factor into the decision, because he’s not going to draw a heavy financial commitment as a free agent without a huge walk year.

    • How many other below average Major Leaguers get love from commenters on this site?

      Look, Jordy was a perfectly useful plug at short during a time when the club literally had no other options for the position and plenty of high-end position players around him. Those ’13-’15 ballclubs at least had a steady glove to back their groundballing staff, and his bat was only an absolute liability one of the years. To this day I argue he’s Huntington’s most successful/valuable draft pick.

      But the fact remains he’s never been able to hit righties nor produce the kind of OBPs he should hitting in front of the pitcher’s spot. He’s been replacement-level in four out of six months this year. He’s the embodiment of the mediocre turn this club has taken. I’ll remember him fondly, but he’s absolutely one of the spots where improvement is needed.

      • I’d disagree with this assessment.

        Not because I think you’re wrong…but because I think you’re wrong.

        Everything you said about Mercer was true, but in a vacuum. He’s a ‘blah’ kind of player…but he’s blah as a dependable and inexpensive shortstop.

        It’s a difficult position to fill. If you go through the presumed playoff rosters, there are a few teams where Jordy would be, at least as good if not better, than what those teams are going into the post season with.

        I think you hit the nail on the head when you mentioned having high-end position players around him. When you get a guy who mans a hard-to-fill position adequately and cheaply, that’s a bonus…unfortunately, Jordy is expected to be on par with the other members of the team instead of a supporting player.

        Sure, the Pirates can do better than Mercer…but it’s also much more likely they’ll do worse.

        • Which part do you disagree with? I don’t disagree with any of yours.

          • I guess it was the “embodiment of mediocre”.

            He absolutely is. And he absolutely isn’t. I’m more than happy with an unspectacular, but dependable, underpaid shortstop.

            It’s the players who surround Mercer that make his role and effect on the team more prominent than it ever should be. On a good team, I think, most folks would find Mercer to be an asset.

        • The problem is that they need to be *good* next year.

          SS and C are the positions that make the most sense to upgrade.

          • There are positions of need that should be addressed long before C and SS.

            If Kostos will be a valuable contributor in 2018, the bullpen is still 4-5 arms short.

            A #1 and #2 starter would be nice.

            A 3B wouldn’t hurt…Freese is the Mercer of the hot corner…however, that’s a position where you expect a lot more offense

            A couple of OFs who could put up an average OPS of around .800 would be a huge improvement over the corner guys the Pirates have who are notching one in the .690 range.

            Catcher I agree with…but Cervelli’s not going anywhere.

            • One thing I found interesting when looking into this topic…

              Jordy Mercer is the 17th most valuable shortstop out of 25 qualifiers with at least 400 PA this season per FanGraphs.

              Of the 16 shortstops ahead of him, 11 were acquired as amateurs and developed internally. 5 were acquired via trade and are within rookie contract status. And just one was acquired in Free Agency, and even that one is Jose Reyes.

              Of the 8 shortstops worse than him, 3 were developed internally, 3 were traded within rookie contracts, and one was signed as a free agent.

              All but three are under the age of 30.

              There’s basically no such thing as a free agent shortstop right now, and an incredible amount of the guys starting have been drafted and developed in the Huntington Era.

              • Interesting stuff…just dug through the list, as well.

                Of the 16 higher ranked than Jordy, eight came via the draft.

                Five of them were first rounders, including 4 top-9 picks. (sorry, Corey Seager), two were second rounders, and only one was picked later than Mercer (B. Crawford).

                Of the eight falling below Mercer on the list, four were drafted…3 first rounders (including a #1 overall (Swanson))…and Ryan Goines (4th round).

                So, of the top 25, 13 were drafted:

                8 first rounders
                2 2nd
                1 3rd (Jordy)
                2 4th

                Not sure what I’m getting at other than….if you want to be a starting ML shortstop, and you’re drafted, it better be in the first four rounds….and, preferably, the first.

                • We’ll soon be able to add Willy Adames, Ahmed Rosario, and JP Crawford to this list as well.

                  Basically, everybody has a young shortstop. Who’s gonna sign Zack Cosart?

                  • Cozart will be interesting.

                    Prior to this season, he and Mercer were clones…somebody will back up the money truck for him after this outburst..I don’t think it’ll be anything substantial though. Either the Reds resign him or gets 3/35.

                    The Pirates about to get a lot younger at SS, as well. If Newman plays well in ’18, he should be a June or September call up. Ideally, Tucker is up a year later and pushes Newman to 2B.

                    If it shakes out that way, I wouldn’t mind seeing Mercer stick around on a reasonable deal…as his career gets into the latter stages, I think he’d flourish being a reserve infielder getting 200-300 PAs/year.

                    • Mercer’s destined for a role as strong platoon infielder; I wouldn’t even mind if it was with the Pirates. So much of his production already comes solely against lefties that I’ll argue he’ll be nearly just as valuable out of the starter role.

                      I’m struggling to keep the faith with Newman, but Tucker is finally starting to put it all together. 2019, I’m telling you, plan for 2019!

                    • In the grand scheme of things, I suppose the Pirates will be lucky to have 1/2 first round picks pan out…especially with both coming in the latter half of the draft. It’d be being greedy to expect both to succeed, but I’m holding out hope as I have a soft spot for low strikeout hitters.

                      As for planning for ’19…I don’t know what year to plan for anymore. Every off-season seems to be the same…we all tend to think: “wow, there’s a lot of uncertainty with the upcoming season, wonder what Neal’s going to do?” Then he just nibbles around the edges.

                      I’m calling it right now…the Pirates will either tear down and win 70-90 games or come back with nearly the exact same players and win 70-90.

                    • Haha, that’s great. I love that take at the end.

  • Alan, Do you see anyone actually being the outspoken leader/motivator/accountability kinda guy in the clubhouse or dugout? Any Burnett/Russell type guys that get them fired up to kick ass on the field?

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