Michael Sanserino is tweeting out a bunch of news today, but the most important points are here: Jonathan Sanchez has made the Pirates' rotation and Brandon Inge will make the Pirates' roster, though he may open the season on the disabled list. I've talked quite a bit about Sanchez already, particularly in yesterday's post about the rotation. There's some room for discussion over whether Neal Huntington did enough to bolster the rotation this winter (Francisco Liriano's weird injury was unforseeable and came at a pretty late date in the winter, Jeff Karstens' shoulder injury was only unforseeable if you're blind, obviously Kyle McPherson pitched poorly this spring and the team probably hoped for better from him, etc.), and so it's pretty unfortunate that Sanchez has made the rotation, but it's still hard to be hugely upset over it. As I wrote, the rotation is in a fluid situation for the early part of the season and at least if he sucks, there will be other options to try. Those options might suck, too, but it is what it is. Sanserino's other news is that neither Francisco Liriano nor Charlie Morton will go on the 60-day disabled list, which means that the Pirates are targeting fairly early-season returns for both of them. This rotation is ugly right now, but it should at least be acknowledged that it's a work in progress.
It's incredibly hard for me to stomach a roster that puts (or presumably will put) both Brandon Inge and John McDonald on the 25-man roster. If Inge starts the season out on the disabled list it's possible that it won't ever come to this, but the possibility is now looming. There is no universe in which Inge and McDonald don't replicate their skills; neither can hit, Inge can field well at third and no where else, McDonald can field well at short and at least passably at second and third. Still, neither can hit, and at some point the Pirates will need some bench players that can do that. It's true that the Sanchez/Jones and Snider/Tabata platoons will leave someone on the bench that can hit, but they'll always be same-handed and frankly, I think it's generous to say that Jose Tabata and Travis Snider can hit anyway.
One way to approach this decision is to remember what Brandon McCarthy said about Inge and Jonny Gomes and their role on last year's Oakland club: that having fun guys that love to play baseball and make life easy for the young players is very seriously invaluable in a way that you simply cannot understand if you've never played Major League Baseball. McCarthy is a really smart guy — definitely one of the smartest players in baseball — and while I'd brush off most players making comments like this, he's one of the few players whose opinion I'd respect on something like this. I think he intentionally overstated the opinion that each was worth 10 wins to the club to get people to pay attention to him, but the point is taken. Sometimes it's good to have Brandon Inge or John McDonald around.
On the flip side of that is this post by Wilbur Miller, which basically says that you'll never know if young players are any good if you don't just let them play. Jordy Mercer has a slick glove, good instincts in the field, and a little bit of pop in his bat. John McDonald and Clint Barmes are basically the same player. Why not leave Mercer around instead of one of those two, let him play against some lefties, slowly phase him in, and see if he can't be better than the 1-2 win shortstop that you've already settled for? Josh Harrison really hasn't hit much in Pittsburgh but he hit quite a bit in the minors. Frankly, even though I'd say that Inge and McDonald are both "better players" right now, I'd rather have Harrison at second for a long stretch if Neil Walker goes down again. I rag on him all the time, but if you want to talk intangibles, Harrison honestly has an infectious joy for baseball that makes even me smile sometimes. And I haven't even mentioned Ivan De Jesus: I know he's a project because of some maybe lingering issues from his long-ago broken leg, but why on earth would you even want to trade for a young guy that's not better than Brandon Inge or John McDonald? How are the Pirates better served with old, known-quantity guys than young players like this that might have even any upside at all?
I suppose what bugs me the most is that in Year Five of Neal Huntington's run as GM, the Pirates are going to break camp with Jonathan Sanchez and John McDonald and maybe even Brandon Inge all on the roster. How are there not better options than this? How can you run a team for five years and build things from the bottom up, and not be able to do better than this for your Opening Day roster? I hope I'm wrong about all of this and given the fluid situation with the rotation and Inge possibly starting the year out on the disabled list, I'll freely admit that I might be. Still, this isn't where I thought we'd be in 2013 and I don't have a very good feeling about it.