How does Inge impact the backup infield competition?

With the full squad practicing at Pirate City in preparation for the upcoming season, the club has a few decisions to make in terms of filling out the roster.

One particular area of competition is for the backup infield job(s). This spot heated up recently, as the Bucs signed veteran infielder Brandon Inge on Tuesday night.

The Pirates have enjoyed keeping two versatile infielders on the team recently. With Gaby Sanchez platooning at first, Michael McKenry backing up Russell Martin, and a backup outfielder to be determined, it’s assumed they’ll follow the same template this year. Jordy Mercer and Josh Harrison seemed to have an edge entering spring training, but the addition of Inge makes things interesting. Inge is on the downside of his career and not too productive; however, all three options have their flaws.

One thing that Inge brings to the table is plenty of experience. Remember when Neil Walker said this back in October?

[quote_box author=”Neil Walker” profession=”Pirates 2B”]“I think experience is probably the biggest thing. When you’ve got an organization that’s as successful as the Cardinals and you have guys like Wainwright, Carpenter and Beltran … when you get into these (playoff) situations, the younger guys are looking at the older guys and seeing how they react to things. It’s a testament to the veteran leadership more than the performance of the younger guys.” [/quote_box]

Harrison and Mercer, at ages 25 and 26 respectively, have little experience but possess an important responsibility by producing off the bench. Inge, on the hand, has 1482 games under his belt, including 77 postseason at-bats. An old-school guy like Clint Hurdle may appreciate a veteran leader coming off the bench.

There’s some upside to him defensively, as he can play all around the diamond. He’s mostly a third baseman, meaning he could rest Pedro Alvarez from time to time. He has also played all three outfield positions, as well as a bit of action at second base. Inge entered the league as a catcher, so he could be useful as an emergency backstop.

The main problem with Inge is his steady decline in offensive numbers. He has the ability to show off some power, but hasn’t posted a respectable OPS in years and has never hit for much average.

Another issue is that he’s coming off a shoulder injury that required season-ending surgery in September. At age 35, there’s reason to question his ability to stay healthy.

Strong cases can be made for Josh Harrison and Jordy Mercer; for all we know, they could still have the best shot at making the team and Inge is just depth. Regardless, this is an intriguing competition to watch as spring unfolds. The Pirates will play their first exhibition game in a little over a week.

Here’s Inge hitting a walk-off grand slam for the A’s in May:

Photo: lakelandlocal/Creative Commons

Top Ten Pirates of the PNC Park Era: #4 Jason Kendall


1996 22 130 54 124 3 42 .300 .773
1997 23 144 71 143 8 49 .294 .825
1998 24 149 95 175 12 75 .327 .884
1999 25 78 61 93 8 41 .332 .939
2000 26 152 112 185 14 58 .320 .882
2001 27 157 84 161 10 53 .266 .693
2002 28 145 59 154 3 44 .283 .706
2003 29 150 84 191 6 58 .325 .815
2004 30 147 86 183 3 51 .319 .789
PIT (9 yrs) 1252 706 1409 67 471 .306 .805

Jason Kendall is known as one of the best Pirates catchers in the past half century, and put up some of his best numbers while behind the plate at PNC Park.  He only hit below .280 once in his time with the Bucs, and was usually at the top of the order because of his knack for getting on base.  Kendall was one of the best defensive catchers in the game with the Bucs.  He consistently had a high CS% and had a great arm, while other defensive sabermetric stats put him right up there with Pudge Rodriguez, Mike Piazza, and other great catchers of the era.  Overall, Kendall was known as a gritty player who was great behind the plate, never wore batting gloves, had a goofy stance, and got beaned a ton.  He had limited success after he left the Pirates, but his time here in Pittsburgh was certainly memorable, especially at PNC Park.

Photo: Steve Paluch/Creative Commons

Bucs deal Resop, Navarro

ResopIn addition to officially signing Russell Martin and deciding on who to tender/non-tender, the Pirates have traded relief pitcher Chris Resop and utility man Yamaico Navarro.

Resop, 30, will be headed to Oakland. With rumors of a Joel Hanrahan trade and increasing interest in Jason Grilli, this trade will further deplete the Bucco bullpen. Although he’s not considered a late-inning/pressure situation reliever, Resop is still a decent option at a cheap price. A lot of fans hated him, for whatever reason. He held down a 3.88 ERA in 159 games for the Bucs over three seasons.

In return, the Pirates will receive RHP Zach Thornton. Thornton, a 24 year old University of Oregon product, was selected in the 23rd round of the 2010 draft. He played High-A ball this year for the Stockton Ports, where he went 4-0 with a 4.53 ERA.

The A’s Twitter accidentally said that they had acquired “Jim Resop”…


Furthermore, the Pirates sent Navarro to Baltimore. He only played 29 games at the big league level last season, and hit just .160. Yamaico performed well at Triple-A Indianapolis, but was arrested for D.U.I. in July.

They will get RHP Jhondaniel Medina in exchange for Navarro. Medina is only 19 years of age, but has been in the O’s organization for three years. He has a career 3.14 ERA in 35 games between the Dominican Summer League, Gulf Coast League, and New York-Penn League.

Go Bucs

Photo: Keith Allison/Creative Commons