When the Pittsburgh Pirates open up a four-game series Monday night against the Milwaukee Brewers at PNC Park, they will be doing so with Neil Walker back in the lineup at second base.
That’s the good news for Pirates fans.
The bad news is that it will likely come at the expense of Jordy Mercer and that’s a mistake.
Bucs manager Clint Hurdle indicated to reporters Sunday that Mercer probably will be the odd man out when Walker comes off the disabled list today.
Quite frankly that’s ridiculous if it means sending Mercer down in order to keep veteran John McDonald on the roster.
Baseball, and all sports for that matter, is supposed to be about winning. That means having a roster that gives you the best chance to do so. In this case that means keeping a guy like Mercer on the active roster as he can help out in more ways than McDonald right now.
But baseball isn’t always about keeping the best players on the active roster and that’s a shame.
McDonald is 2 for 30 this year. Mercer hit two home runs Saturday alone and is 8 for 30 with three homers overall. Mercer has an .894 OPS, compared to McDonald’s abysmal .276.
Obviously he helps out far more from an offensive standpoint off the Pirates bench.
While the perception is that the 38-year-old McDonald is still a reliable utility infielder from a defensive standpoint, the 26-year-old Mercer is just as good, plus his offense gives him a significant edge.
The facts are that, at this point in his career, McDonald likely doesn’t belong in the big leagues. Keeping him ahead of a guy that can help you win games is simply foolish.
You will hear the classic line of how the Pirates want Mercer to play every day in Triple-A, but that’s ridiculous as well.
With Walker likely needing a day off from time to time as he is struggling against left handed pitching and only Clint Barmes at short, there’s no reason that Hurdle can’t get Mercer around three starts per week and having his bat off the bench is more beneficial than carrying McDonald.
I’m not trying to make the case that Mercer is a star, or even a future starter in the majors, but I am suggesting that he gives the Pirates a better chance to win on a nightly basis than a guy like McDonald. And like I mentioned before, winning is what this should be all about.
Mercer has more upside than McDonald, a .237 career hitter. When the Pirates make moves like this, it makes you wonder how they will ever get a real look at young players?
You will also hear the classic line about wanting to win, but sometimes moves like this suggest the opposite. It’s not a crime to carry the best 25 players that you can, but sometimes Pirates management treats moves like this as if it were.
Mercer could turn out to be a pretty good player, or he may turn out to never be as good as Walker or even Barmes. But the point is how will the Pirates ever know unless they give the guy a legitimate shot?
In the brief shot he got, Mercer made the biggest statement that he could. Unfortunately it likely won’t matter.
This particular situation shouldn’t be a tough decision at all. McDonald should be DFA’d in favor of a player that can help the team more.