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Jordy Mercer, weird extension candidate

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Pittsburgh Pirates v Cincinnati Reds Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

As we’ve noted elsewhere in this space, the Pirates have discussed the possibility of an extension with Jordy Mercer. It doesn’t look like talks have been extensive, and it doesn’t look like a deal is close. But an extension for Mercer would be surprising if it happened.

Now, a couple quick caveats. Any everyday player could theoretically be a good extension candidate on the right terms. If the Pirates were to sign Mercer to an extremely team-friendly deal, it would be hard to take issue with that. Also, as Wilbur noted, it’s possible the Pirates simply reached out to Mercer about the possibility of a deal that would cover his last two arbitration seasons (2017 and 2018). I’m not sure I’d see any rush to lock in guaranteed salaries for Mercer even over that limited span of time, but if the Pirates did that, it wouldn’t be a significant problem.

Any longer than that, though, would be strange. Mercer is already 30 and has never even had an extended stretch as an above-average regular. He’s about average defensively, and both UZR and DRS suggest he took a step backwards with the glove last year; I didn’t particularly notice that happening from watching him, but it wouldn’t be surprising if in fact he lost a step as his 30th birthday approached. And offensively, he’s never been anything to write home about — his .256/.328/.374 line from 2016 is probably about what we should expect from him going forward.

That’s a decent player, which is why, for example, we never discussed the possibility that the Pirates should non-tender Mercer. But the Bucs shouldn’t be in any rush to extend him, either, unless they can get a deal that’s way below market value.

And even then, they should probably be careful. The Pirates already have two decent-not-great infielders in Josh Harrison and David Freese who are locked up long-term; do they need a third? And with Kevin Newman making his way through the minors, isn’t the year-to-year flexibility of Mercer’s arbitration seasons an asset for the Pirates? For example, it’s unlikely but possible that Newman could make quick work of the high minors in 2017 and make a convincing case that he should start in 2018. Being able to cut bait with Mercer at that point might be best for the Pirates, particularly if he struggles next season. Even if the Pirates think they might trade Newman, extending Mercer before that happens seems odd.

If the Pirates want to extend someone right now (and I’m not sure there’s any rush to), I’d suggest Jameson Taillon. There’s no harm in touching base with Mercer, but I’m not sure extending him is the best route.