How the Pittsburgh Pirates Can Capitalize on a Weak Middle Infield Free Agent Market

The Pirates should listen on any offers regarding their young middle infielders.

Aug 1, 2023; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA;  Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop Alika Williams (75) and
Aug 1, 2023; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop Alika Williams (75) and / Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Pirates are have an overflow of young middle infielders. With such a barren middle infield free agent market, now could be a good time to listen to offers on their MLB ready middle infielders.

One area of the farm system that the Pittsburgh Pirates excel in is middle infielders. Termarr Johnson is a second baseman who is considered one of the better position player prospects. Liover Peguero, Nick Gonzales, Tucupita Marcano, Alika Williams, and Ji-Hwan Bae will be in the running for playing time at second base in 2024. Mitch Jebb, Tsung-Che Cheng, and Jack Brannigan will be approaching Major League readiness very soon.

The Pirates could potentially deal from this wealth of top middle infield prospects, and if the Pirates ever wanted to listen to offers on any of their young middle infielders, now is the time. Both the shortstop and second base free agent markets are rail thin, which means it will be a sellers market for middle infielders this off-season.

MLB Trade Rumors lists Amed Rosario as the best shortstop option, and he’s coming off a year where he batted .263/.305/.379 with an 89 wRC+. Defensively, he had -15 defensive runs saved (DRS) and -14 outs above average (OAA), making him the worst defender at shortstop in the league. Despite racking up over double-digit negatives in both DRS and OAA, he played the position less than 900 innings.

Of course, there’s also Tim Anderson, who ranks bottom five among qualified hitters in OBP, slugging percentage (last), wOBA (second to last), and wRC+ (tied for last). He also has -16 DRS and -2 OAA. Anderson comes with his whole host of other issues that aren’t just performance related.

Second base is slightly less bleak, as Whit Merrifield and Adam Frazier headline the class. However, both are probably better suited as utility guys rather than full-on regulars. Both were once well regarded defenders at the keystone, but their gloves have declined over the last year, and both have an OPS hovering right around .700.

Aside from Rosario, Anderson, Frazier, and Merrifield, the rest of the 2B/SS free agent class is shallower than a kiddie pool. Elvis Andrus, Enrique Hernandez, Isaiah-Kiner Falefa, Joey Wendle, Nick Ahmed, Matt Duffy, Hanser Alberto, Eduardo Escobar, Rougned Odor, Kolten Wong, and Jonathan Schoop. Needless to say, I don’t think anyone among this group is going to be handed the keys to even a semi-regular role for most teams.

But because of the lack of middle infielders on the free agent market, the Pirates probably aren’t the only team who will try and capitalize on this. The Baltimore Orioles will field the market to see what offers they could get back for Jorge Mateo and Ramon Urias, as well as some of their own MLB-ready middle infielders like Jordan Westburg, Joey Ortiz, and Connor Norby could bring back to reinforce their team. The Yankees may see what Gleyber Torres could get in a trade. If the LA Angels completely tear it down, they’ll probably listen on offers for Luis Rengifo, and division rivals the Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals could potentially kick the tires on a Willy Adames or Tommy Edman trade, respectively.

Still, even if there is competition among the sellers, the middle infield market is still a sellers market. The Pirates should be willing to see what some of their young middle infielders could get back in a trade. They need to resolve pitching, specifically starting pitching, in this upcoming off-season. Right now could be a really good time to sell high because the market would heavily favor a middle infielder.

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