One of the stranger deals of the off-season was signed a few days ago as Clint Barmes inked a two year, $10.5 million contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates. As a young team with limited financial resources it looks like a bad allocation of funds. To make room for Barmes they declined a $3 million option on Ronny Cedeno, who should put up similar offensive production for far less risk. Despite his obvious shortcomings, Barmes has real fantasy value, which illustrates just how bereft of talent the shortstop position is.
Outside of Jose Reyes and Jimmy Rollins there isn’t a consistent bat on the market. Barmes spent last year with the Astros after playing his first eight seasons in Colorado. He struggled in Houston’s Minute Made Park, hitting .229/.301/.360 in a traditionally good park for right handed hitters. The road was much kinder to Mr. Barmes, as he posted a .732 OPS which is nearly .100 points better than his career number of .637. Needless to say, last season looks like an outlier. Due in part to a pathetic Houston offense, and the fact that he played in only 123 games, his runs batted in and runs scored totals weren’t as high as some shortstops who had worse seasons. He did manage to hit 12 home runs which was good for seventh at his position. Also, his .308 wOBA ranked ahead of players like Yuniesky Betancourt, Jason Bartlett, Ian Desmond and Alex Gonzalez.
There were only four teams that scored fewer runs than the Astros last season. The Pirates were one of them, and it doesn’t look to be getting much better in the steel city. The team’s two biggest offensive threats, Andrew McCutchen and Neil Walker return but are accompanied by little else. Ryan Doumit is gone to Minnesota. Derek Lee likely isn’t returning. Garrett Jones brings a little pop to the lineup and Jose Tabata is still young enough to have breakout potential. They brought Rod Barajas on board with another silly contract, and while he provides 15 home run potential, his on base percentage hasn’t topped .300 since 2007. PNC Park is rather neutral, so Barmes won’t gain any added production from his home park like he did at Coors Field.
Thanks to a position bereft of talent Barmes is worthy of a late round selection in most formats. Expect numbers similar to his 2011 performance going forward.