With the Pirates on a two-day hiatus from playing baseball anywhere near where I am in Florida, I've been trying to take a break from the internet because that keeps me from worrying about work and, believe it or not, there aren't a lot of fun things that surround your sixth year in grad school. And so I missed out on some actual Pirate news this afternoon because I was off at Mixon's Fruit Farm eating delicious orange ice cream. I'm OK with most of my life decisions.
This afternoon the Pirates announced both that Chase d'Arnaud will go to the 60-day disabled list with the thumb injury that shelved him earlier this spring and that they'd acquired John McDonald from the Diamondbacks for cash or a PTBNL. Since McDonald goes on the 40-man roster, it means he's likely going to be guaranteed a bench spot. That makes the roster math quite a bit easier.
If we assume that the Pirates are going to go with 13 position players, eight of those spots will go to starters counting Jones at first and Snider in right. McKenry will be the backup catcher (9), Tabata will platoon with Snider in right (10), and Gaby Sanchez will platoon with Jones at first (11). If McDonald makes the team, that's 12 players, which leaves one remaining roster spot for Brandon Inge, Jordy Mercer, Josh Harrison, Ivan De Jesus Jr., and Alex Presley. McDonald's only possible redeeming skill is that he's still got an excellent glove at short, even at the age of 38. He can play second and third, too. Knowing that, I think we can almost certainly rule De Jesus and Mercer off of the roster, and honestly I think I'd probably rule Inge out, too, because he can't hit at all and he can only play third base and McDonald can do both of those things. That leaves a spot for either Harrison or Presley. Given that the club will have four outfielders in McCutchen, Marte, Tabata, and Snider, that Marte can play center, and that Garrett Jones can play outfield in a pinch, I don't think Presley will make the club. That means Josh Harrison is the 25th man, unless Clint Hurdle really, really likes Brandon Inge. If the Pirates carry Brandon Inge and John McDonald on the roster simultaneously, even as the 24th and 25th men, I will scream.
What this acquisition boils down to is this: McDonald has a good glove at any non-first base position in the infield. Inge can only really lend useful defense at third, De Jesus doesn't really have a strong defensive reputation anywhere since his leg injury a few years ago, and Mercer's only really been tested at short. McDonald can't hit at all, but Inge certainly can't, either, and neither Mercer nor De Jesus seem likely to be great offensive players in the big leagues. Essentially, McDonald seems like a defensive replacement and insurance in case Barmes gets hurt. You could read into a little more about what it may say about the team's opinion of Jordy Mercer and Ivan De Jesus, but it's always tough to draw those sorts of opinions when you can argue that a player might be better served playing in Triple-A rather than sitting in Pittsburgh.
All of which is to say that McDonald isn't a terribly inspiring acquisition, but that you could do a lot worse with your 25th roster spot. Of course, he'll probably be paired on the bench with one of (in order of likelihood with rapidly diminishing returns as ranked by me based on little more than my own intuition) Harrison, De Jesus, Mercer, or Inge, which is a little more depressing. Still, it's probably a short-term move mainly designed to let the team watch De Jesus play shortstop a little bit longer in Indianapolis, so it's hardly the end of the world.