|Born: September 24, 1974
Drafted: 12th Round, 363rd Overall, 1996 (Indians)
How Acquired: Trade for PTBNL (from Diamondbacks)
College: Providence College
WTM’S PIRATE PLAYER PROFILES
|McDonald has made a career as a utility infielder with a very good glove and an exceptionally poor bat. Even at age 37 in 2012, both UZR and the +/- system rate him as well above average defensively at short. He’s also spent time at second and third. At the plate, he’s only once had an OPS+ above 79 (93 in 2010), with an anemic career mark of 61. He doesn’t hit for average or power, and seldom walks. The Pirates, apparently unsatisfied with their utility infield options, acquired McDonald for a PTBNL or cash from Arizona, which was looking to move him and his contract in favor of younger players.
In his debut, McDonald played short in the New York-Penn League. He showed some patience, which didn’t last, but little power.
The Indians moved McDonald up to high A and he posted numbers that would be typical of his minor league career.
In AA, McDonald’s walk rate continued to drop and his power disappeared.
McDonald split the season evenly between AA and AAA, and hit much better at both locations. He also got a brief callup in July, then returned to Cleveland in September.
McDonald was the regular shortstop in AAA, but missed a chunk of the season due to a pulled quad. Baseball America rated him the Indians’ 13th best prospect after the season. He got called up in late August but didn’t play much.
The Indians left McDonald in AAA most of the year, outside of two games in April. He did get a September callup. He had a dismal season at the plate in AAA. BA nevertheless rated him the team’s 14th best prospect, solely on the strength of his glove, comparing him to 1960s-era, good-glove, no-hit shortstops like Mark Belanger.
By now 27, McDonald finally spent the season in the majors. With Omar Vizquel at short, McDonald played mostly second. Cleveland that year had replaced Roberto Alomar with Ricky Gutierrez, a move that failed badly. McDonald played the position regularly for long stretches in June, August and September. He hit very little, producing a slash line very similar to his career mark of 239/276/331.
Apart from missing a little time with injuries, McDonald stayed in Cleveland and backed up at second, short and third.
McDonald spent the season in Cleveland, playing very sparingly. The Indians had Ronnie Belliard at second, Vizquel at short and Casey Blake at third, all having good years, so McDonald did little other than backing up the aging Vizquel. After the season, the Indians sent him to Toronto in a minor trade.
McDonald stayed with Toronto through late July, backing up at short and a little at second. The Jays then effectively loaned him to Detroit, where he played the same role the rest of the year. Although he hit for a solid average (.277 overall), he did so little other than hit singles that his OPS+ was only 75. After the season, Detroit sent him back to Toronto for cash.
Thanks to Russ Adams’ struggles, McDonald ended up starting about half of Toronto’s games at short. His hitting was worse than usual.
The Jays brought in Royce Clayton to play short, but he proved to be washed up and McDonald became the starter for the majority of the season, setting a career high in ABs. Late in the season he signed a two-year contract extension with the Jays.
McDonald mainly backed up David Eckstein at short, missing out on an opportunity for playing time when both he and Eckstein got hurt on the same play. At the plate, McDonald fell to a miserable OPS+ of 42.
McDonald mostly backed up at short. He got his hitting numbers up, mainly in the form of an improved slugging average that resulted from three more HRs. After the season he became a free agent, but signed a two-year, $3M deal with the Jays just over two weeks later.
McDonald backed up at all three infield positions. He had by far his best offensive season, entirely in the form of a one-time power spike as the Jays inexplicably launched 257 longballs on the season.
In Toronto, McDonald divided his time between backing up at second, short and third. In late August, the Jays sent him to Arizona in what was otherwise a swap of secondbaseman, the Diamondbacks exchanging Kelly Johnson for Aaron Hill. The D’backs had lost Stephen Drew, so McDonald spent the rest of the season alternating at short with Willie Bloomquist. Arizona at that point had developed an obsession with scrappy players, thanks to the influence of manager Kirk Gibson, and they signed McDonald to another two-year, $3M deal two days after he became a free agent.
Other than missing time in June and July with a strained oblique, McDonald spent the season with the D’backs. He subbed at short for Bloomquist and Drew, and became the regular there in September when Bloomquist was hurt, with Drew having been traded. He had his second best hitting season, again entirely due to a much more modest power spike as he tied his career high in HRs.
McDonald will be the Pirates’ middle infield backup. It’s difficult to see what purpose he’ll serve. They already have an outstanding defensive shortstop in Clint Barmes, whose bat isn’t as anemic as McDonald’s, so they don’t need a defensive sub there. He could replace Pedro Alvarez at third in the late innings. Otherwise, he’ll probably see action in double switches and after Barmes comes out for a pinch hitter. If the Pirates’ history with no-hit utility infielders is any indication, he’ll probably also pinch-hit himself fairly often, a role in which he has a career OPS of .575. McDonald’s acquisition is consistent with the Pirates’ practice under Neal Huntington of stocking the bench with veterans, a practice that’s been uniformly disastrous so far. Perhaps the reasoning with McDonald is that, unlike players like Casey McGehee, Nate McLouth and Ryan Church, nobody will expect McDonald to hit at all, so they won’t be disappointed when he posts abysmal numbers. The Pirates also seem unwilling to accept the fact that, especially on a National League team with a five-man bench, backups need to be able to produce some offense or their team becomes helpless against fireballing, late-inning relievers.
|Signing Bonus: N/A
MiLB Debut: 1996
MLB Debut: 7/4/1999
MiLB FA Eligible: N/A
MLB FA Eligible: 2013
Rule 5 Eligible: N/A
Added to 40-Man: 1999
Options Remaining: 0
MLB Service Time: 11.118
|June 4, 1996: Drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the 12th round, 363rd overall pick; signed on June 5.
1999: Contract purchased by the Cleveland Indians.
December 2, 2004: Traded by the Cleveland Indians to the Toronto Blue Jays for a player to be named later; Tom Mastny designated as the PTBNL on December 14.
July 22, 2005: Traded by the Toronto Blue Jays to the Detroit Tigers for cash considerations.
November 10, 2005: Purchased by the Toronto Blue Jays from the Detroit Tigers.
November 6, 2009: Became a free agent.
November 25, 2009: Signed as a free agent with the Toronto Blue Jays.
August 23, 2011: Traded by the Toronto Blue Jays with Aaron Hill to the Arizona Diamondbacks for Kelly Johnson.
October 30, 2011: Became a free agent.
November 2, 2011: Signed as a free agent with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
March 20, 2013: Traded by the Arizona Diamondbacks to the Pittsburgh Pirates for a player to be named later or cash considerations.