Ken Rosenthal reports that the Pittsburgh Pirates have acquired infielder John McDonald:
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) March 20, 2013
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.