James McDonald elects free agency

Andy Lyons

The 28-year old will likely be picked up by a team looking for a back-end starter for next season.

Pittsburgh Pirates right-hander James McDonald has elected free agency after refusing an outright assignment to Triple-A Indianapolis, according to the official transactions page on MLB.com. McDonald recently cleared outright waivers after being designated for assignment by the Bucs, and decided to look for work elsewhere instead of staying in Pittsburgh's minor league system.

McDonald, 28, has been on the disabled list since April 30th with shoulder issues. In six starts on the season before landing on the shelf, McDonald pitched poorly, posting a 2-2 record and 5.76 ERA in 29.2 innings of work.

Due to the success Pirates' starters A.J. BurnettCharlie MortonGerrit ColeJeff Locke and Francisco Liriano this season, the team decided that it would be best to cut ties with McDonald instead of trying to slot him into the rotation for the last month of the season.

McDonald is likely to be signed as a back-of-the-rotation option this offseason, and potential suitors include the Yankees and Twins. According to Darren Wolfson of 1500ESPN.com, Minnesota has concerns that McDonald is not all the way back from his shoulder issues, and decided not to give him a 40-man roster spot for the rest of the season. They could still pursue him for a rotation spot next season, along with many other teams looking for a proven fourth or fifth starter.

After being selected by the Dodgers in the eleventh round of the 2002 draft, McDonald ascended through the team's minor league system and made his major league debut in 2008. He was used primarily as a reliever throughout the next three seasons in Los Angeles, and was shipped to Pittsburgh at the trade deadline in 2010 in a move that sent Octavio Dotel to the Dodgers. McDonald has been used as a starter ever since, and has been relatively successful in his time with the Pirates. In four seasons with the Bucs from 2010 to 2013, McDonald was 27-24 with a 4.21 ERA in 435.2 innings, and is the owner of a 32-30 record and 4.20 ERA in his six-year major league career.

Because McDonald elected free agency, he does not have to wait until after the World Series to sign with a new team. Because he cleared waivers, it is unlikely that a team will pick him up for the remainder of the 2013 season, although some have speculated that the Yankees could take a flyer due to their recent pitching struggles. McDonald would not be eligible to participate in postseason play with any team.

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