According to multiple sources, the Pirates have discussed the possibility of a contract extension with shortstop Jordy Mercer. It sounds like the talks have been rather limited and the two sides reportedly aren’t close to a deal. Mercer is coming off what should probably be regarded as a standard offensive season, posting a line of 256/328/374, good for an OPS+ of 87. These are very close to his career numbers of 257/313/377 and 90. He did put up walk and K rates that were easily career bests. Mercer’s defense, though, slipped considerably according to most defensive metrics, from above average to well below average. Mercer turned 30 last August, so it’s certainly possible the slippage was real and not a blip.
It’s probably not a good idea to read too much into this. Apart from the fact that nothing seems imminent, it’s possible that the Pirates simply were considering whether to lock in Mercer’s salary for his two remaining arbitration years. He made $2.075M in 2016 and MLBTR projects him to earn approximately $4M in 2017. He’ll be eligible for free agency after the 2018 season. Kevin Newman should be ready to take over the position by then, if not sooner, and hopefully would be an upgrade. Of course, Newman could be traded for pitching before then, but the Pirates also have Cole Tucker, who could be ready for the majors by 2019 himself.
In one other, minor news item, the Pirates sent four of their prospects to MLB’s Rookie Career Development Program (sub. req’d), which is designed to advise young players about finances, the media and other issues of big league life. The four players were Max Moroff, Dovydas Neverauskas, Clay Holmes and Edgar Santana. The news is interesting mainly due to the inclusion of Santana, who unlike the others is not on the 40-man roster. (He’s not yet eligible for the Rule 5 draft.) It may or may not be an indication that the Pirates think he could reach the majors in the not-distant future.