Spring training is hurtling towards us at a rapid pace, but the Pirates are apparently still filling out the fringes of their spring roster. While everyone was watching burning cabins and presidential speeches last night, the Pirates were signing Brandon Inge to a minor league deal.
Inge, of course, spent most of his career in Detroit before being released by the Tigers in April of last year. He subsequently picked up with Oakland and started for them at third base before separating his shoulder twice in August and early September and missing the rest of the season and playoffs. Inge is basically a third base version of Clint Barmes. He can't hit even a little bit (since 2006 his OPS is .698 and his OPS+ is 84), but he's a spectacular defender at third base: Baseball-Reference has him pegged as 13.5 wins above replacement defensively for his career. He's a utility guy that's played all over, but if you look at his DRS it looks like around 80% of that value has come from his time at third. That held true last year, too; despite a .675 OPS he was above-replacement as an Athletic because he contributed nearly a full win defensively in his 74 games.
Which is to say that I don't really mind giving Inge an invite to camp on a minor league deal. His glove likely makes him a better bench player than Josh Harrison, though he's a little less versatile in the field. The usual caveat applies: if Inge spends any significant time on the field this year, something went terribly wrong. He's not a high upside player that's going to suddenly have a resurgence at the plate; he's a defensive specialist that can take up some late-game slack from Pedro Alvarez and maybe play second in a pinch, but he's nothing more than that. If he makes the team (which I would assume is not quite a given, especially because of that shoulder), he shouldn't go much north of 250 plate appearances. If he does, chances are pretty good it'll have been a long year for Pirate fans.