Pirates acquire infielder Erik Gonzalez in 5-player trade with Indians
The Pittsburgh Pirates added to their list of possible replacements for Jordy Mercer on Wednesday, acquiring infielder Erik Gonzalez in a five-player trade with the Cleveland Indians.
Gonzalez made 16 appearances at shortstop among the 81 games he played for the Indians last season, suggesting the Pirates targeted him as an option to be their everyday shortstop next season. The Pirates need to fill that hole for the first time since Mercer seized that spot in 2013.
“Erik Gonzalez is an athletic middle infielder who plays solid defense and has the potential to be a productive hitter at the major league level,” general manager Neal Huntington said in a statement. “He gives us another quality option to play shortstop or in the middle of our infield this year and into the future.”
In exchange for Gonzalez and right-handed pitching prospects Tahnaj Thomas and Dante Mendoza, the Pirates sent Max Moroff and Jordan Luplow to Cleveland.
Last season, Gonzalez hit .265 with a .301 on-base percentage, .389 slugging percentage and one home run for Cleveland. Those numbers are commensurate with those he has posted in the 162 games in his MLB career since 2016.
Named an “organizational All-Star” by MiLB.com for the Indians from 2013-16, Gonzalez was named “best infield arm” in the Indians organization by Baseball America in 2014, ‘15 and ‘17.
Gonzalez also stole 90 bases over eight minor-league seasons.
Thomas and Mendoza are 19-year-olds who have appeared only in the Dominican Summer League and/or Arizona League as professionals. Mendoza was a 12th-round pick in 2017, and Thomas was signed out of the Bahamas the year before.
Thomas (6-foot-4, 190 pounds) has 61 strikeouts in 57 1/3 professional innings.
“Tahnaj Thomas is a recently converted infielder who possesses a quality frame, athleticism, a clean delivery and arm strength to create a high-ceilinged prospect,” Huntington said.
The 6-5 Mendoza allowed 38 hits and 22 walks in the 40 innings he has pitched over 13 games (five starts) in the Arizona League.
“Dante Mendoza is a pitching prospect who brings many of the traits we like in young pitchers, while adding to the depth of pitching prospects with upside in our system,” Huntington said.
Moroff appeared in 84 games over the past three seasons as an infielder for the Pirates, hitting .193 with six home runs. He was with the organization since being a 16th-round pick in 2012.
Luplow, an outfielder taken in the third round of the 2014 draft, hit .194 with six home runs over 64 games for the Pirates in 2017-18, memorably hitting two home runs during the second game of a July 14 doubleheader.
Luplow was considered a frontrunner to replace Gregory Polanco over the first third or so of the season while Polanco recovers from shoulder surgery. The addition of Gonzalez perhaps gives the Pirates the option of moving Adam Fraizer from second base to the outfield while Polanco is out.
Earlier this week during an appearance on 93.7 FM, Huntington said it was the Pirates’ preference for Frazier to take over the everyday second baseman role from Josh Harrison. The team declined Harrison’s 2019 contract option earlier this month.
Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chris at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.