On Twitter a couple weeks ago, Joe Sheehan and I were discussing how brutal the shortstop situation presently is in Pittsburgh. I was under the impression coming into this year that while starter Ronny Cedeno was a miserable hitter, he would at least be tolerable as a shortstop because his glove is solid. Joe was kind enough to inform me that this isn't exactly the case, noting that, compared to his offense, "His defense is worse. He's wretched."
Nobody ever wants to be called that about anything. But unfortunately, Pittsburgh's alternatives are incredibly weak. Cedeno's current back-up, Josh Rodriguez, is a fringy defender at shortstop that's struck out in 8 of his first 12 at-bats. Nobody has ever really projected him as a regular shortstop. Their best shortstop in the upper minors, 24-year-old Chase d'Arnaud, is generally regarded as a fringe defender at shortstop as well, and it remains to be seen whether he's capable of hitting at the MLB level.
Enter Brandon Wood. The former stud prospect has been remarkably bad as an MLB player, with an astonishing .168/.197/.259 line across five different seasons. Maybe even more damning than that horrid triple-slash line are his plate discipline numbers, though: it's practically impossible to succeed with a 15-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and Wood's only affirmed that.
But now the Angels have officially given up on him, having designated him for assignment this week, and the Pirates are in a prime position to acquire the player essentially for nothing. Colin Dunlap of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has taken things a step further, reporting that Wood is likely to be claimed by the Pirates today.
And frankly, I think this is a great move for the Pirates. Cedeno is a bad player on a bad club with little potential and no future on the team. He's not going to part of the next winning Pirates team, and it's not even clear that the next good Pirates shortstop is even in the organization yet. Rodriguez is younger than Cedeno but has practically no chance of turning into a regular, and d'Arnaud seems far more likely to stick as a regular at second base than at short. They would have to get rid of Cedeno or Rodriguez to make room for him, but neither player has the kind of long-term potential that would make this a serious concern.
So, why shouldn't the Pirates claim Wood? Yeah, he might end up as one of the biggest busts in prospecting history. But if he's awful for a couple months this year and they end up releasing him, isn't that worth seeing if he can puts things together and becomes a legitimate power-hitting shortstop acquired practically for free?
There are a lot of things going against Wood, let's be clear. His contact issues are very serious, and we've probably never seen anyone play as bad as Wood has and develop into a good player. But he's only 26, his minor league numbers have always been exceptional, and clearly scouts haven't totally given up on him because people continue to talk about him so much.
The risk here for the Pirates- getting awful production from their shortstop, which they're already getting- is almost non-existent. And the potential reward- a shortstop capable of hitting 20+ homers on the cheap- is massive. For a team that's already firmly in the non-contender category, this kind of risk seems like a good one.