Following a busy trade deadline that saw the Pittsburgh Pirates add Chris Archer and Keone Kela, general manager Neal Huntington struck again on Monday afternoon in August’s waiver trade period, acquiring veteran shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria and cash from the Tampa Bay for minor league pitcher Matt Seelinger.
The Rays recently designated Hechavarria for assignment, so the Pirates jumped quickly on the veteran shortstop, adding another piece to the bench that can help Pittsburgh push towards a Wild Card berth.
It’s a curious move for the Pirates, considering Hechavarria is a free agent at the end of the season. Aside from his contractual obligation, Hechavarria simply can’t hit in the majors, posting a .289 on-base percentage the last two seasons. This season, Hechavarria has a .258/.289/.339 slash line for the Rays in 61 games, with three homeruns and 26 runs batted in, while posting a 75 wRC+.
The veteran shortstop hasn’t stayed in the majors the last seven years based on his bat though. Defensively, Hechavarria is one of the best in the business. This season, the veteran ranks 13th in baseball in defensive runs saved (4) according to FanGraphs, marking a vast improvement for the Pirates over Jordy Mercer, who ranks 37th with a mark of -12 defensive runs saved.
Moving forward the rest of the 2018 season, it seems like – at least at face value – that Hechavarria could serve as a late-inning defensive replacement for Mercer, allowing Mercer to continue to get at-bats before giving way to a defensive upgrade.
Long-term, it’s possible the Pirates pursue bringing back Hechavarria at a discount compared to what Mercer could bring in on the open market. Mercer is clearly the better hitter, but it’s no question Hechavarria has a better glove, which should help the Pirates get back on track defensively in the shift down the stretch.