According to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, the Pittsburgh Pirates have acquired shortstop John McDonald from the Arizona Diamondbacks Wednesday for a player to be named later. The Pirates made the move just one day after shortstop Chase d’Arnaud had surgery on a partially torn thumb ligament.
McDonald played in less than half of Arizona’s games in 2012, hitting .249 with six home runs and 22 RBIs. The 38-year-old should serve as the Pirates backup to Clint Barmes as short, as d’Arnaud is expected to miss the next six-to-eight weeks.
Barmes numbers drastically dropped off last season as he hit .229 with 8 homers and 45 RBIs in 144 games with the Pirates. Neither Barmes nor McDonald have hit well this spring, as both sport averages around .250, though Barmes has hit two homers and driven in five runs.
The Pirates finished fourth in the NL Central in 2012 and didn’t make too many moves this past offseason, outside of picking up catcher Russell Martin. Pittsburgh is led by centerfielder Andrew McCutchen, who is coming off an MVP-type season. McCutchen finished 2012 with a .327 average, 31 homers and 96 RBIs, good enough for third in the NL MVP voting.
Pittsburgh opens up the season at home against the Chicago Cubs on April 1. A.J. Burnett is set to take the mound that day, and is coming off his best season since 2009 with the New York Yankees. Burnett posted a 3.51 earned run average and a respectable 16-10 record with the Pirates in 2012.
John McDonald isn’t that much of an offensive upgrade for the Pirates, but it does add some depth to their young infield. If Barmes struggles early in the season, McDonald should see a lot more playing time based on his experience and glove at short.
Pedro Alvarez will be the every day third baseman for the Pirates, while Neil Walker will play second. Garrett Jones and Gaby Sanchez will split time at first base, but the real question comes at shortstop.
Clint Barmes spent the majority of his career with the Colorado Rockies before a stint with the Houston Astros in 2011. His hitting has steadily dropped over the past three seasons, so the trade for McDonald can only help.
The Pirates are not projected to be a playoff team in 2013, but anything can happen in the long major league season. Winning a lot of games early always seems to be the best formula to have a chance at the pennant, but the Pirates depth makes you wonder if they have enough for a run at the MLB playoffs.
Does the trade for John McDonald make the Pirates a better team and ready to make a run at the playoffs in 2013?