The Pittsburgh Pirates do not have many needs this offseason, but is shortstop one of them?
The past three seasons Jordy Mercer has been the Pittsburgh Pirates’ everyday shortstop. This came after splitting time with Clint Barmes at the position in 2013. However, should the Pirates be looking for an upgrade over Mercer?
At first, Mercer seemed like a god send. This, largely, was due to how poor of an offensive player Clint Barmes was. However, Jordy Mercer’s defense was never on the same level as Barmes.
Jordy Mercer worked hard to improve his defense and was able to do so. In 2014 he finished with a 6.8 dWAR and he was responsible for nine defensive runs saved. This was very much so the work of an above average defensive shortstop. The past two seasons, however, Mercer’s defense has regressed.
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In 2015 he was responsible for zero defensive runs saved and a 2.0 UZR/150. By these metrics he rated as an average defensive shortstop and this would be very acceptable. However, he slipped to below average in 2016.
During the 2016 season Jordy Mercer was responsible for negative nine defensive runs saved, he had a -10.1 UZR/150, and his dWAR was -2.0. It goes without saying that he was a below average defensive shortstop in 2016.
Another factor working against Mercer is his offense. In 2013 Jordy Mercer was an above league average hitter with a .333 wOBA and a 115 wRC+. However, like his defense, his offense has regressed in recent seasons.
In 2014 his wOBA fell to .299 while his wRC+ was 91. He took another step backward in 2015 when his wOBA (.265) and wRC+ (67) both dropped once again.
Additionally, Jordy Mercer has been hitting the ball with less authority each season. His ISO was .150 in 2013, .132 in 2014, .076 in 2015, and then it rebounded to a still porous .118 in 2016. His hard contact and line drive rates have each dropped each of the past three seasons as well. They bottomed out at a 25.2 percent hard contact rate in 2016 and a 19.7 percent line drive rate.
The Pittsburgh Pirates definitely have bigger needs this offseason than shortstop. However, kicking around the idea of finding a replacement for Jordy Mercer should still be on the table. Each of the past three seasons Mercer’s offense and defense have both gotten progressively worse. Due to this, he is both a below average fielder and hitter.
Jordy Mercer is already 30-years old. Due to this, there is no reason to expect him to all of sudden turn some sort of corner and improve in the future. Adding a shortstop that is better defensively, or offensively, than Mercer would be an upgrade for the 2017 Pirates. It can also help to offset the lack of offense the Pirates are projected to get from Josh Harrison at second base in 2017.