The strain of baseball commentary where we, the fans, demand that players be "freed" has lost steam over the years as general managers have gotten better at their jobs. We used to have actually-pretty-interesting players like Erubiel Durazo to champion, usually guys who didn't play much defense but who could really hit. Now we just have players like Jordy Mercer. The Pirates' indifference to Mercer has been a minor source of frustration for Bucs fans, but now it's reached the point where it's become glaring.
Mercer is currently hitting .333/.404/.452 at Triple-A. That's a small sample size, and he's not going to hit .333 in the big leagues. He won't even continue to hit that at Triple-A if he's left there. But it's another data point in a profile that continues to suggest he can help the Pirates. Mercer can play defense at shortstop -- not as well as Clint Barmes can, but he can play there. And he can hit.
I'm a bigger fan of Barmes than most Pirates fans are, because he's an important part of what has been a much-improved defense over the past two seasons. The Pirates have gone from No. 25 in defensive efficiency in 2011 to No. 10 in 2012 and No. 4 in 2013. Barmes and Starling Marte have been responsible for an enormous portion of that improvement.
Barmes should stay, and, although his offense continues to be dreadful, he probably should play a fair amount. It doesn't make sense, though, to continue to go with John McDonald on the bench. McDonald hasn't hit at all this year. It's a tiny sample size, obviously, but we knew from the beginning that he was horrific offensively. He also hasn't played defense particularly well so far, and that's supposed to be his calling card. Both his offense and his defense would likely improve somewhat if he were given more time, but McDonald was a marginal player to begin with, and as one of you put it in the comments the other day, there's no reason to give him much rope. It's not irresponsible to remove a guy from the roster based on a small sample size if adding him was a borderline decision to begin with.
When the Pirates traded for McDonald, I thought it was pointless, but inconsequential -- he wouldn't play much, but it wouldn't hurt the Pirates either, because his defense would offset his lack of offensive ability. That hasn't proven to be the case so far. Combine that with Mercer's great start at Indianapolis, and it looks increasingly clear that having Mercer replace McDonald is the best play. Mercer won't be a complete zero as a pinch-hitter, and he can also take some starts from Barmes, particularly when A.J. Burnett, a strikeout pitcher, is on the mound.
Mercer isn't a star. He isn't even Erubiel Durazo. But he's worthy of our squeals of protest. Free Jordy Mercer!
UPDATE: Something like 10 minutes after I posted this, Dan Zangrilli tweeted that Mercer was joining the Pirates in Pittsburgh. Maybe I should write an essay about world hunger or something.