Have the Pittsburgh Pirates shifted their focus for a new shortstop to the free agent market?
Entering the offseason the Pittsburgh Pirates’ biggest need was shortstop. Jordy Mercer, who has since signed with the Detroit Tigers, was set to hit free agency and was never going to be back as the team’s starting shortstop. And the in-house options of Kevin Newman and Pablo Reyes were underwhelming at best.
Earlier in the offseason the team added Erik Gonzalez via trade with the Cleveland Indians. However, Gonzalez projects more as a super utility player than an everyday shortstop. Mix in Neal Huntington’s comments that Jung Ho Kang is not an option at shortstop due to the leg injury he suffered in September of 2015, and the team is still searching for the answer at short.
For the past week the Pirates have been heavily engaged with the Arizona Diamondbacks in trade talks circled around Gold Glove winning shortstop Nick Ahmed. While Ahmed remains the team’s top target at shortstop, it appears they may be turning their attention elsewhere. According to George A. King of the New York Post, the Pirates have ‘big interest’ in a free agent shortstop.
This free agent is 29-year-old Freddy Galvis. King reports that the Pirates and New York Yankees are both interested in Galvis. However, the Pirates could be a more appealing option to the Venezuelan infielder because with the Yankees he would just be a stopgap until Didi Gregorius is healthy. In Pittsburgh, he would be the man at shortstop.
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Earlier this offseason we identified Galvis as a potential free agent target. You can read that here. So, the Pirates being interested in Galvis comes as no surprise.
Galvis would bring something to Pittsburgh that Pirate fans have not had an opportunity to see since the days of Clint Barmes – plus defense at the shortstop position. Last season Galvis was responsible for +7 defensive runs saved at the shortstop position. For comparison’s sake, Mercer’s DRS was -9.
His defense is a big reason why Galvis accumulated a WAR of 2.3 last season with the San Diego Padres. Again, for comparison’s sake, Mercer’s WAR last year was 0.1. So, Galvis would appear to be a substantial upgrade over Mercer at shortstop.
Galvis’ shortcoming, however, is that he is a poor offensive player. Despite hitting 20 home runs with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2016, Galvis owns just a lifetime .256/.290/.374 slash line with a .128 ISO and a wRC+ of 77.
His offense has been trending upward in recent seasons, though. He posted a career-best wRC+ of 85 last season, topping his previous high water mark of 80 which was accomplished in 2017. While this is still below league average, Galvis’ strong defense makes him an above league average player.
A final note on Galvis is that he is my wife’s favorite baseball player. And, you know what they say, ‘happy wife, happy life’. And Galvis being a Pirate would make her quite happy.