The Pittsburgh Pirates have agreed to terms with shortstop Clint Barmes on a two year deal, according to Brian McTaggart of MLB.com. We heard previously that the Pirates were the leaders for Barmes, and were close to signing him. The team hasn’t made an official announcement on the move, although the article mentions that Barmes was taking a physical today, which usually comes before the announcement.
In the article by McTaggart, Barmes is quoted as saying he signed with the Pirates because they offered him two years, and because it gave him the chance to reunite with Clint Hurdle. He also added that the Pirates wanted to make a decision on their shortstop position, and had other guys lined up behind Barmes, with the former Astros and Rockies shortstop being the top choice.
Barmes has been one of the better defensive shortstops in the league the last few years, and his strong performance ranges almost every defensive metric. His UZR/150 at shortstop in 2011 was a 10.8 in 1058.1 innings. That ranked third in the majors among qualified shortstops, falling only behind J.J. Hardy and Alexei Ramirez. Over the last three years, Barmes has the second best UZR/150 of all shortstops with at least 1500 innings.
Barmes also ranks high in Total Zone, ranking 7th among shortstops with 1500+ innings over the last three years. Looking at the Fielding Bible stats, he ranks high in +/-, coming in 3rd among qualified shortstops in 2011, and 5th among shortstops with 1500+ innings over the last three years.
The Pirates saw good defense from Ronny Cedeno in 2011, although the defense from Barmes was better. Barmes has also been more consistent than Cedeno throughout his career, which is a plus. Shortstop is the hardest position to fill defensively, and it’s especially important for the Pirates, who have a rotation heavy with ground ball pitchers.
Offensively, Barmes is below average for shortstops, although it’s rare for a shortstop to have the defense that Barmes has, combined with strong offense for the position. While Barmes’ offense is below average for the position, his offense is better than the majority of defensive shortstops. In a perfect world, you could get someone who is strong across the board. In reality a team like the Pirates are choosing from either a strong defensive shortstop with below average offense, or an above average offensive shortstop with poor defense. Again, considering the makeup of the pitching staff, and considering how important the shortstop position is defensively, I’ll take the defensive shortstop over the offensive shortstop every day.