On the Pirates signing of Clint Barmes

Sometimes I get the feeling that teams just sign free agents because they can and not because they need to.  Case in point, the Pirates signing of Clint Barmes to be their everyday shortstop for the next two seasons at a grand total of 10.5-million.

Barmes is a perfectly useful player.  He’s good defensively, versatile, and has shown some ability to hit in the past although that certainly isn’t the reason one would go about making him your everyday shortstop.  He did accumulate an impressive 3.1 fWAR last season in Houston but probably shouldn’t be expected to repeat that next season.  He’s shown that his average season is somewhere under 2.0 fWAR, which would suggest that $10.5-million over two years isn’t bad value if you buy in to market value being about $5-million/WAR as suggested by FanGraphs.

If you were an organization that needed a starting shortstop and had no other option other than the free agent market then I could see handing Barmes that kind of deal.  The problem is that the Pirates realistically aren’t contending next season and are probably not contending in 2013 either, so why do you need a soon-to-be 33-year-old shortstop (who by the way immediately becomes their highest paid player)?

This deal is made all the more perplexing considering that the Pirates do have many in-house options available to them.  Any one of Chase D’Arnaud, Josh Harrison or Pedro Ciriaco could handle the position as a stop-gap (or possibly more) for league minimum salary.  That seems to make more sense.

In fact, the route that would likely make the most sense is bringing Ronny Cedeno back by picking up his option (which the team declined).  Cedeno would’ve made $3.0-million this season saving the Bucs a cool couple mill and they would have only been locked into one year, rather than two.  Barmes certainly had a better year last season, but is also four years older.

Cedeno is not as consistent defensively as Barmes, but is no slouch at the position, posting better than average fielding numbers across the board in every year except 2010.  And check out how similar the two are offensively:

(click to embiggen)

If the Pirates wanted a veteran starting shortstop, Cedeno could have been had at a much more reasonable cost for virtually the same player.

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