The Diamondbacks have said all along that the shortstop position will see a few different faces during the 2013 season. There are a couple different ways we can look at this. First, using different starters on any given day can help keep guys fresh and make them hungry to produce when they do get called on. Or, and this is what’s going on in Arizona, there just isn’t anyone good enough to run the shortstop position all season so this is the only option.
One of players who began with the D’backs this spring will be playing against them moving forward as word spread yesterday that veteran infielder, John McDonald, was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates for a player to be named later or cash considerations.
McDonald came over in the August 23, 2011 trade that sent second baseman Kelly Johnson to the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for Aaron Hill and John McDonald. The defensive wizard would finish his tenure as a D’back with a .230/.278/.344 slash line with six home runs in 256 at bats spread over 89 games. He also was part of the 2011 playoff team, the veteran’s first appearance in the playoffs over his 14 year career.
At the time of the trade, it seemed as though McDonald would provide a nice buffer zone for the club as he is easily one of the best defensive shortstops to play the game and the team had lost Stephen Drew just a month earlier to a season ending ankle injury. Looking back now, that may have been Kevin Towers’ best trade to date. McDonald’s swift work on the infield helped the club finish just .001 behind the Braves for the best fielding percentage in the N.L. in 2012 and Hill was likely the team’s most consistent player over the entire 2012 season.
Still, as Tower’s continually brought over shortstop after shortstop this winter, the move that would send the 38 year old to another team was practically inevitable. Just to recap quickly, this winter saw: Cliff Pennington, Didi Gregorius, and Nick Ahmed come over to compliment Willie Bloomquist, John McDonald and Chris Owings, the team’s top shortstop prospect before the acquisitions of Gregorius and Ahmed.
The issue that this team still faces is that even with all six of these players, they still don’t have an everyday shortstop. Sure, Gregorius, Ahmed, and Owings weren’t expected to be ready for 2013 anyway and we all know that Towers is all about developing talent from within the farm system rather than buying free agents starters so we can omit them here from even making the opening day roster.
Willie Bloomquist, in my opinion, is hands down our best option and in 2012 the veteran did more than a sufficient job at manning his position. Kirk Gibson’s concern throughout much of last season was his longevity over the course of a 162 game season and whether or not the 35 year old could withstand the daily grind. This led to Bloomquist typically playing two days, off the next. This was frustrating as a fan since he seemed to have a multi-hit game every other night and even if he finished 3 for 4 the previous evening, Gibby would sit him.
Then, to make my case even worse, Bloomquist did indeed begin to have health issues sometime in late July and missed nearly the entire months of August and September with an ailing back. So, now a year older can we really expect Gibson to trust him in 2013?
It looks like we’ll just have to hope that Pennington’s paltry 2012 season that saw career lows in just about every offensive category was just an enigma in a career that typically sees an on base percentage upwards of .320 rather than his .278 last season. With Bloomquist and Pennington, the team should be OK getting through the 2013 season, barring an injury that would shake things up once again.
Either way, with McDonald now gone, the club will surely miss his presence in the dugout as well as his sure-handedness while roaming the infield. Here’s what manager Kirk Gibson had to say about the him:
“He’s the ultimate professional. Great leadership on and off the field. Really helped drive us to a different place as a team. Contributed a ton.”
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