Pittsburgh Pirates: Marwin Gonzalez is a Bad Idea


The Pittsburgh Pirates biggest needs this offseason are obvious.  However, an upgrade at shortstop seems to be the most logical area to improve.

Entering the 2018-2019 offseason, the biggest need for the Pittsburgh Pirates is a big bat to solidify the middle of the lineup.  The other somewhat obvious need would be to upgrade the shortstop position.  The best case scenario would be to find a big bat that plays shortstop, knock two birds out with one stone if you will.

The upcoming free agent class is one of the deepest ones in recent history.  The group is headlined by premium names like Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, and Josh Donaldson on the offensive side.  Meanwhile, on the pitching side of things, there are some pretty good options in the likes of  Patrick Corbin, Dallas Keuchel, and a plethora of high-end relievers like Craig Kimbrel and Andrew Miller.  So there will be a lot of money spent this offseason that is for sure.

However, while this is one of the deepest free agent classes ever, the one position that is not deep in terms of available players is the shortstop position.  The top free agent there is Manny Machado, which many teams will be bidding for his services.  Of course, there is the dream that he ends up playing shortstop for the Pittsburgh Pirates, but that is not realistic.  Machado will easily get a $200+ million contract.  The Pittsburgh Pirates have never even come close to handing out a $100+ million contract, let alone anything close to what Machado is going to sign for.

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So what does that leave on the shortstop market?  The top names in terms of annual production would be Marwin Gonzalez, Eduardo Escobar, Freddy Galvis, and Jordy Mercer.  Not exactly a deep class when one could argue that Mercer might be the most well rounded of the group.

Which is exactly the point of discussion.  Marwin Gonzalez just had a strong post-season for the Houston Astros.  He batted .423 with two home runs, and nine runs batted in.  He is being talked about because he has the ability to play shortstop, as well as many other positions.  He is a switch hitter with pop, which is a very intriguing tool to potentially have at shortstop.

In 2017 he was one of the key contributors to the Houston Astros batting over .300 and hitting 23 homers in the process of 134 games.  This year he did not have quite as strong as a season, but did still have a pretty solid one batting .247 with 16 home runs.

Albeit Marwin Gonzalez could bring a strong bat in the middle of the order, he may not be a really intriguing fit for the current team.  This past season many were unhappy with the Pittsburgh Pirates defense.  Gonzalez would only add to that playing as an everyday shortstop.

Although he has the ability to play there from time to time, over the long haul of a season he could hurt the team more than his offense could help.  This past season he played 269.2 innings at shortstop.  His UZR/150 was abysmal, standing at -30.6 and also he accounted for negative five defensive runs saved.  This was after playing 281.1 innings there last season and posting -8.5 UZR/150 and negative three defensive runs saved.

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Marwin Gonzalez would be a really strong bat to bring in for the Pittsburgh Pirates.  He has power from both sides of the play, including as a lefty which would play in PNC Park.  He also has been a really strong run producer in his career.  However, he is not an everyday shortstop.  He cannot be tasked with playing there every day due to his defense.  The metrics have not been kind to him there and that is with an average of playing 62 games there a season.  If the team wants to upgrade at shortstop in terms of offense, but also have good defense, Gonzalez is not the fit.