The signing itself isn’t terribly noteworthy. Mora is an average defender whose bat fell off a cliff last year at the age of 37. With that kind of profile, Mora projects as a roughly 1.0-1.5 WAR player per 600 plate appearances, or about a .75 WAR player off the bench. Given the high probability of injury and collapse with a 38 year old player, 1.3 million seems about perfect for Mora.
What is notable about this move is that it seems to signify that the Rockies do not view Clint Barmes as a utility type player, and instead view him as the opening day starter at second base. Perhaps he would move to the bench if Eric Young Jr. plays well enough to earn the job in spring training, but right now it is Barmes’s job to lose.
Barmes’s 76 career wRC+ certainly does not suggest starter ability, especially on a playoff team. He has performed better recently, particularly in 2008, where even adjusting for Coors, Barmes was an above average hitter. The 30 year old did slip in 2009, but some of that was BABIP based. His numbers should rebound slightly, into the 85-90 wRC+ range.
His true value comes from his glove. Barmes has played all over the infield. He’s only average at third, and quite good at SS, with a +6 UZR/150. The Rockies, however, are giving him an opportunity at his best historical position. At second base, Barmes has put up a +10 UZR/150 in just over one full season, but these numbers are supported by the fine two seasons he’s played at SS. As a +8 2B, as projected by CHONE, Barmes is a slightly above average player. Even at the +5 level projected by fans, he’s only slightly below average.
Rockies GM Dan O’Dowd’s willingness to stick with the light hitting Barmes over historically better hitters on the free agent market such as Felipe Lopez and Orlando Hudson is a good decision, regardless of whether or not it siginifies that the employers of Brad Hawpe understand defensive numbers. Lopez and Hudson both would represent a marginal improvement over Barmes once you factor in Barmes’s far superior glove. As such, the decision to upgrade the bench at 3B for a much cheaper payroll hit is almost certainly the correct one.
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