The Pittsburgh Pirates biggest need this offseason is likely at the shortstop position. However, it may not be an easy fix.
This is not breaking news, but the Pittsburgh Pirates are scheduled to lose incumbent shortstop Jordy Mercer this offseason. Mercer has been playing with the Bucs since 2012 and has been a constant for the team since then. He has never been looked at as an impact player for the Buccos, but he at least always was a solid, consistent option.
Over the course of his major league career, Mercer has been defined by the word average. If you look at any facet of his game, not one part of it really stands out. He is a steady fielder who has made the plays he should. Meanwhile, at the plate, he has done a better job against lefties than righties, but has held his own against righties.
In his career, which has all been with the Pittsburgh Pirates, he has batted .256/.316/.383. He only has struck out 16.7 percent of the time while walking at a solid but unspectacular 7.4 percent clip. His wOBA is right at .300 with an 88 wRC+ and has accrued a 7.8 WAR over his seven years of playing time with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Although Mercer has been a solid, reliable presence at shortstop, he has never been defined as an impact player. He has just finished up his final year of arbitration making $6.75 million. Mercer now enters a free agent market that could favor him. There is not a lot of quality options on the free agent market this year. Meanwhile, Mercer was also used sparingly toward the end of the season while the Pittsburgh Pirates figured out what they had in Kevin Newman. While Newman had a very small sample size, he did not look like the type of player that would make a real impact.
In terms of free agent options, there are not a lot of players that would be recognized as impact players. The only true difference maker on the list in Los Angeles Dodgers’ infielder Manny Machado. As much as the Pittsburgh Pirates fans want to dream of Machado playing in PNC Park 81 times a year, it is not going to happen. No matter how much payroll room the Bucs may have, the team will never give out that type of contract.
The other true shortstop options are led by Freddy Galvis. Galvis played for the San Diego Padres last season, after spending the majority of his career with Philadelphia Phillies. The 28-year-old batted .248/.299/.380 this past year. The next best option would be Jose Iglesias. Iglesias is known for being one of the best defensive shortstops in the game, however one of the lightest hitting ones too. The now former Tiger batted .269/.310/.389 in 2018.
The next best everyday shortstop option after those two are Jordy Mercer and Adeiny Hechavarria. So one can see that the market is rather thin for the position. There are some players like Eduardo Escobar and Marwin Gonzalez who can play shortstop, but should not be considered as every day options. Although, they would make a bigger impact at the plate.
All in all, it seems most likely that the team will roll with Kevin Newman as the opening day shortstop. Now, the team could make a trade, but after giving up a lot of young talent this past trade deadline it does not seem likely they will again. Meanwhile, the Pittsburgh Pirates could look to bring back Jordy Mercer in a reserved role on a cheap contract. In the end, Pittsburgh Pirates fans should not have much optimism when it comes to bringing in a cornerstone shortstop this offseason.