Who gets DFA’d by Pittsburgh Pirates when Harrison and Mercer return?


The Pittsburgh Pirates will benefit greatly from the returns of Josh Harrison and Jordy Mercer to the team in the near future, mostly in the form of an improved bench. It remains to be seen whether Mercer and Harrison return to starting roles and how their playing time will be allocated, but what we do know is that when those two return to the active 25-man roster, two players have to go. Which two players on the active roster will be the ones to be bounced to make room for Mercer and Harrison? That is, if both players come back before rosters expand on September 1st?

The way I see the roster right now, there are really only four options that could be replaced by those two returning players: Pedro Florimon, Travis Ishikawa, Sean Rodriguez, and Michael Morse. The Pirates won’t remove a bullpen arm and hold an extra bench bat with the importance of pitching down the stretch. None of these four players have options remaining, so if they were cut, they would have to be designated for assignment, clear waivers, and accept an assignment to Triple-A if any were to remain with the team.

In my opinion, this is how I see the situation playing out: Florimon and Ishikawa get designated for assignment, Rodriguez and Morse remain with the major league team. And here’s why.

First of all, Michael Morse isn’t going anywhere. He’s one of two right-handed options at first base, and the Pirates traded for him. Yes, it may have been a trade in part to rid the team of Jose Tabata‘s contract. But it was also to get a better right-handed first base option than Rodriguez, and to add a guy who has a career .282/.293/.462 line in 39 at-bats in the postseason and won a ring with the Giants last year. One way or another, Morse is going to be one of the two options sitting on that bench when Mercer and Harrison return.

The other bench spot gets a little more interesting. My guess is Florimon goes because he only plays shortstop, and the Pirates will have a much better shortstop-only player in Jordy Mercer. There’s no need to keep two shortstop-only players on the bench (assuming Jung Ho Kang starts at short), and Mercer is much better offensively than Florimon.

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I think Travis Ishikawa will be DFA’d as well. He’s one of three first base options for the Pirates next to Morse and Pedro Alvarez, and the Pirates don’t need three first basemen. He’ll also be the victim of a deep bench for the Pirates, and I have a gut feeling that Rodriguez’s defense will keep him on the team. Clint Hurdle and company value defense (even if the team defense hasn’t been great this year to say the least), and Rodriguez has been very good in that department this season.

So, in summary: I believe Florimon and Ishikawa will be DFAd. But I also feel that Rodriguez should be the one getting DFAd, not Ishikawa. Rodriguez has been a liability at the plate this year, and with Ishikawa gone, the Pirates would have no lefty off the bench against a right-handed pitcher. Ishikawa also has postseason experience, just like Morse, and can be a depth outfield option as well. Josh Harrison could be that utility player as opposed to Rodriguez when he returns, so that could nullify the need for Rodriguez to be on the team.

There are a few other factors to keep in mind as well. Michael Morse is making a decent salary this year and could clear waivers based on that, and one other intriguing name to watch: J.A. Happ. He could be a wild card to be DFAd, especially if Vance Worley or Radhames Liz become better starting options for the Pirates down the stretch. Or, maybe a player gets placed on the disabled list to make room, or maybe one of Mercer or Harrison doesn’t come back until September, when rosters expand, which would change how many players have to get released/optioned, if any.

The Pittsburgh Pirates will find themselves in a complicated, but fortunate situation when Josh Harrison and Jordy Mercer return. The bench and the team as a whole will be greatly improved. But with that improvement comes the need to let some players go. This may seem like a small decision based on the others the team has made and will continue to make this season, but it’s an important one nonetheless. They could lose one of those players on waivers, or they could choose to keep a player who turns out to be a liability or a waste down the stretch. It will be an intriguing situation to watch play out in the coming weeks.

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