I'm a little behind the gun on this, but the Pirates made a small move on Monday that's probably worth talking at least a little bit about. They claimed Brent Morel off of waivers from the Blue Jays and, to make room for him on the 40-man roster, they designated Chase d'Arnaud for assignment.
Morel was drafted by the White Sox in the third round of the 2008 draft and turned into a decent prospect; he was Baseball America's #85 prospect prior to the 2011 season and the White Sox made him their primary third baseman that year. He struggled both in 2011 (.245/.287/.366 with 10 homers and 18 doubles in 44 plate appearances) and overall in his White Sox career (.229/.276/.333 in 669 PAs). The Blue Jays took him from the White Sox off of waivers earlier in the winter, and now he's a Pirate.
I suppose the question with Morel is this: why would the Pirates or the Blue Jays want this guy? He's really only played third base in his career and his glove has rated out as pretty average (though a small sample size applies there). It's possible that his approach at the plate is evolving in a way that's interesting to someone. When he was a prospect in 2010, his line was heavily batting-average driven and he only drew 27 walks in 527 plate appearances split between Double-A and Triple-A. Last year, in 106 games with Triple-A Charlotte, he had a .349 OBP to go with his .266 average, thanks to 48 walks in 452 PAs. He'll be 27 in April, so I guess there's a chance that some of that might translate into more success at the big league level. I wouldn't really count on that, though.
I guess that Morel is just a little bit more infield depth, but I can't find any way that he would appear to be a more useful player than Josh Harrison (Harrison is a better hitter both at the big league level and in Triple-A, plus he's capable of playing second base). With Pedro Alvarez, Clint Barmes, Jordy Mercer, Neil Walker, and Harrison, you'd need to go two injuries deep to find a role for Morel. Heck, at this point Gaby Sanchez seems more likely to see third base action than he does.
It might be more pragmatic to look at it as a swap between third base depth and shortstop depth, since the Pirates designated Chase d'Arnaud for assignment to make room for Morel. d'Arnaud hurt his thumb in spring training last year and struggled quite a bit with Indy when he came back. He didn't hit much with Indy in 2012, either, which has put him well behind Jordy Mercer and Clint Barmes on the shortstop depth chart. His speed and his status as a shortstop might get him claimed by another team (maybe the Blue Jays will revisit the Brian Jeroloman Waiver War of 2011/2012), but I don't think that's really a sure thing.
We're probably talking about the 39th or 40th guy on the 40-man roster, so I'm not sure how much we really need to scratch our heads over what the Pirates might see in Morel. If he plays more than Brandon Inge did last year, there's either an alarming problem or a serious lapse in judgment.
"with 10 homers and 18 doubles in 44 plate appearances"
That's one helluva batting line right there... haha
If it's a swap of Morel for D'Arnaud, that's fine with me. Morel's a big guy with a bad back, but at least he has a theoretical role with the Pirates as a right-handed hitting backup to Alvarez with an OK glove and a little peo--after all, if you're looking to get Gaby Sanchez reps at third, you may have a need there. D'Arnaud, on the other hand, really has no role on the big club--outside of pinch-running, he doesn't do anything well enough that you'd want to put him in the game to do it.