The Pirates have a bunch of infield talent in their system as I talked about in a previous posting. Neil Walker, Josh Harrison, Jung Ho Kang, Sean Rodriguez and Jordy Mercer to cover the second base, third base and shortstop positions (and some out field too)
In the Minor Leagues you have Alen Hanson working his way up probably in late July or August. In
upcoming seasons you have Cole Tucker ( ETA 2018) and JaCoby Jones (ETA 2016). Who maybe
able to stick at shortstop. In the 2015 draft the Pirates picked two shortstops and two third
basemen in the first 8 picks. Two of which in the first round. Okay so like with Walker, there is a log
jam of player talent that could be pushing him out of a job.
So... why keep Mercer?
First and probably most importantly he can play some defense and do it fairly well. He hasn't
shown to be a gold clover, at least not any time soon but he is better than average. In fact in 2014
he lead the NL in Total Zone runs at short, second in Assists and 4th in Fielding Percentage at short.
So far in 2015 he isn't far off from those numbers again. Really he is the lone bright spot on the
Pirate infield so far in 2015, defensively speaking.
Second he can hit decently. Yeah you might think I am crazy. But Mercer is a late bloomer every
season so far. For his career the first half of the season he is .237/.286/.338 and in the second half
he is .280/.337/.454. That leads to a career .254/.306/.383. While it is not a stat line that takes
you to the hall of fame his second half numbers are better than average while his first half numbers
are really pulled down by very poor March/April/May where he hits for a .208 average for his career.
If you take out March/April/May from his batting stats he hits for ~.274 in his career. That is
nothing to shake a stick at, especially at the short stop position.
Third and probably most importantly for the front office... he is cheap. Only making about
$540,000 this season which is sure to go way up after he is eligible for arbitration. If I had to
guess a team with a need for a decent short stop who can hit he is worth $8-10 Million a year, but
that is just a guess.
Lastly he has low value right now because he is a slow starter. His value is increasing game by
game, hit by hit and by the deadline many teams would be interested.
Why Trade him?
The first reason to trade Mercer would be to clear up some room for more playing time for Kang
and later Hanson. This problem could be partially solved by trading any one of the infielders
though. It could also be reduced by keeping Hanson down until September. Though Hanson's bat
may press the issue.
Second, as the deadline gets closer Mercer should be hitting much better and his trade value should
be much higher. With an expected better than average bat, a good glove and on top of that dirt
cheap with control he will have a high value. Maybe not as much as a healthy Hamels but still pretty
If a contender needs a shortstop here is your guy. If a team is rebuilding and needs to shed some
salary, here is your guy.
As the Pirates I wouldn't shop him around specifically, I would tell other teams that we have extra
infielders and if they want one of them push Walker instead. That is unless they come back with a
crazy offer for Mercer.