Clint Barmes might be the new “Most Interesting Man in the World.” According to many analysts at the GM Meetings, Barmes’ agent was out in full force Wednesday. Perhaps surprisingly, Barmes is drawing a lot of interest from multiple teams. While Barmes isn’t the sexiest name on the shortstop market, he might actually be one of the better bargains at the position this off-season.
In Dave Cameron’s Top 50 Free Agents post, Barmes ranked 29 overall — which put him in the Good Role Players tier. That seems fair, as Barmes has been a decent player over the last couple of seasons, but has flaws that prevent him from being anything more. On this market, however, Barmes looks like the fourth best shortstop. All of the shortstops rated ahead of Barmes have their own issues, though, and Barmes might actually be a safe, low-cost option at the position.
Barmes’ main selling point is his defensive prowess at short. Over his career, Barmes has posted 20.8 UZR at short — higher than both Rafael Furcal and Jose Reyes. While Jimmy Rollins has been a solid defender over his career, he’s getting older and more injury prone — and that could affect his defense going forward. Barmes’ ability to play multiple positions effectively makes him an attractive option in this market.
The main problem with Barmes — outside of the fact that he lacks the history and name recognition of the shortstops ahead of him — is that he lacks their offensive upside. Barmes hasn’t hit above .245 over the last three seasons, and has struggled to keep his OBP over .300 during that time. Outside of 2009 — when he hit 23 home runs for Colorado — Barmes isn’t going to contribute much in the slugging department either. Barmes’ 2012 Bill James projection reflects those struggles, as Barmes is expected to post an identical slash line next season.
Still, there’s value in having a versatile middle infielder who can handle multiple defensive positions well. If the Jamey Carroll deal is any indication, the market seems to agree. Despite his advanced age, Carroll received a two-year deal from the Minnesota Twins worth roughly $6.5 million. While Barmes won’t hit nearly as well as Carroll — he is six years younger — and could receive a similar deal.
Though the other shortstops on the market have higher upside than Barmes, he might be the safest option on the market. Reyes is going to cost a ton of money, and has struggled with leg injuries the past couple of seasons. Furcal has similar injury issues, and Rollins is two seasons removed from a sub .300 OBP. At least a team knows what they are getting in Barmes.
While it might not be a sexy skill set, it’s certainly useful at the right price. Instead of spending boatloads of money hoping Reyes stays healthy — or Furcal and Rollins return to form — signing Barmes at a lower price might be the play for some teams. It might even be the right decision.