The Pirates Should Extend Jordy Mercer


Gregory Polanco, Francisco Cervelli, Starling Marte, Francisco Liriano, Josh Harrison, and Andrew McCutchen are all examples of Pirate players to get long-term contract extensions in recent years. Now, Jordy Mercer should be next.

In the always volatile world of Pirates Twitter, there have been many players who have gotten the brunt of anger and criticism over the past few seasons. Player such as Charlie Morton, Clint Barmes, Erik Kratz, and Jeff Locke immediately come to mind. In some cases the criticism was well deserved, while in others it went too far.

One such player that has drawn much criticism from Pirate fans is shortstop Jordy Mercer. And while Mercer has, at times, deserved some of the criticism. He is definitely one of the players were the criticism tends to go too far. Maybe that’s why Jordy’s favorite past-time is blocking people on Twitter!

Despite the criticism, Jordy Mercer has slowly but surely rounded into a steady shortstop for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Ever since taking over as the starting shortstop for the Pirates in 2014 Jordy Mercer has improved offensively each season, while his defense has remained consistent. In my opinion, it is time that the Pirates try to negotiate a contract extension with Jordy Mercer.

If he had enough at bats to qualify, he does not due to missing two months with a leg injury last season, Jordy Mercer’s 2.6 WAR that he complied between 2014 and 2015 would rank 16th among all Major League shortstops. While this just puts Mercer squarely in the middle of the pack of Major League shortstops, his time on the disabled list needs factored in as well. If not for that, Mercer’s WAR the past two seasons would undoubtedly be over 3.0 which would bump him into the top half of all Major League shortstops.

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As of this writing, which is being done before the Pirates and Dodgers game on Sunday Night Baseball, Jordy Mercer has a 0.9 WAR so far in 2016. This ranks Mercer 20th out of 30 qualifying shortstops dating back to 2014. If you would factor in an addition 0.4 or 0.5 points of WAR for time lost last season Mercer would not only jump into the top half of Major League shortstops, but in fact he would be borderline top ten in terms of WAR.

While Jordy Mercer’s defense has not been as strong this season as it was the previous two seasons, he has improved tremendously at the plate which helps to offset that and keep his overall value high. After slashing just .251/.301/.359/.660 with a .285 wOBA, 82 wRC+, and a 6.3 percent walk rate the past two seasons, Mercer has become a better hitter in 2016. So far this season Mercer is slashing .274/.357/.367/.724 to go along with a .314 wOBA and a wRC+ of 99.

The most encouraging offensive sign form Jordy Mercer this season has been his improved patience at the plate. This season Mercer has a 10.1 percent walk rate, which has led to a .357 on-base percentage. Entering the season Mercer had a career 6.2 percent walk rate and a .308 on-base percentage. Obviously, Jordy is blowing his career norms in these categories out of the water this season.

Jordy Mercer’s .357 on-base percentage is good for seventh best among all Major League shortstops in 2016. Furthermore, it ranks third among National League shortstops behind just Jonathan Villar of the Brewers and Aledmys Diaz of the Cardinals. Mercer’s 10.1 percent walk rate is fourth best among Major League shortstops, and third in the National League behind Villar and the Cubs’ Addison Russell.

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The one black eye on Jordy Mercer this season has, surprisingly, been his defense. Jordy Mercer still has a strong .987 fielding percentage this season, but his UZR/150 (-12.8) and defensive runs saved (-7) are both very bad. However, this is an anomaly and not the norm with Mercer. The past two seasons Mercer had a 2.5 UZR/150 and nine defensive runs saved at shortstop.

While neither of those numbers are great, especially over a two season span, they are both above league average. So despite struggles this season, the past two seasons Mercer was an above league average defensive shortstop. For this reason, I am willing to bank on the first three months of 2016 being an anomaly and not a trend.

Jun 5, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop Jordy Mercer (10) reacts after hitting a double against the Los Angeles Angels during the sixth inning at PNC Park. The Angels won 5-4. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 5, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop Jordy Mercer (10) reacts after hitting a double against the Los Angeles Angels during the sixth inning at PNC Park. The Angels won 5-4. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

One big argument against extending Jordy Mercer is the talent that the Pirates have in the Minor Leagues at shortstop. Specifically 2014 and 2015 first round draft picks Cole Tucker and Kevin Newman. While Tucker is still, at least, three years away from the Major Leagues Newman could be here soon.

In just his second season of professional baseball Kevin Newman is already at Double-A. And in 24 plate appearances for Altoona Newman is off to a strong start slashing .304/.333/.435/.769 with a .348 wOBA and a 116 wRC+. It is very possible that Newman begins the 2017 season at Triple-A, and is Major League ready at some point late next season or early 2018.

At this point, Jordy Mercer could transfer to becoming a strong super utility player for the Pirates off the bench. Throughout his Minor League career Jordy Mercer played plenty of third base and second base along with shortstop. In the Major Leagues, Mercer has also played second and third base. Furthermore, he has also seen limited time in right field and at first base.

Dan Zangrilli of The Fan post-game show deserves some credit for that train of thought. While listening to the post-game show on my way home from the ballpark on Saturday he kicked around the idea of extending Mercer, with him possibly sliding to a super utility role down the road. And that is an idea I like a lot.

Jordy Mercer has also crushed left-handed pitching in his career. During his five seasons in the Major Legues Mercer owns a .321/.384/.496/.879 slash line, .175 ISO, .379 wOBA, and a 146 wRC+ against left-handed pitching. This is a great weapon for a team to have against left-handed pitching.

The Pittsburgh Pirates have extended a lot of their core players in recent years, and I believe that Jordy Mercer should be next. Jordy Mercer brings good value at the shortstop position both offensively and defensively, and in the long-term could become a strong super utility player if someone such as Kevin Newman becomes the shortstop of the future. It is time to start negotiating a long-term contract with Jordy Mercer.