A lot of the rumors we’ve heard this year have been the same. The Pirates are looking for a big bat, and they’re looking for a pitcher. Today we heard a new set of rumors: the Pirates are looking at shortstops.

Ken Rosenthal reported that the Pirates are one of the teams interested in Stephen Drew. Buster Olney followed with a report that the Pirates have had no conversations with Arizona about Drew.

Later in the day, Troy Renck of the Denver Post reported that the Pirates have expressed interest in Marco Scutaro.

With all of these trade rumors, there’s a big gap between “interested” and actually trying to deal for that player. Interested can just mean a quick phone call to see if a team is willing to trade a player. Actually discussing scenarios for a deal, including which prospects would need to be dealt to land a player, is much further down the line.

There’s another thing to consider: where there’s smoke, there’s fire. What these rumors suggest is that the Pirates are looking to replace Clint Barmes. That move wouldn’t be unwarranted. Barmes has put up some excellent defense this year. He currently has the fourth best UZR/150 among qualified shortstops, with a 10.2 mark. Only Yunel Escobar, Starlin Castro, and Brendan Ryan are ahead of him. Last year he had a 10.8 UZR/150, so I wouldn’t say what we’re seeing is a fluke.

The problem has been his offense. Barmes currently has a .521 OPS. Even Brendan Ryan is beating him with a .582 OPS, and Ryan isn’t known for his hitting.

In the past, Stephen Drew has put up good offensive numbers, and some decent defensive numbers. However, Drew isn’t hitting this year after missing over a year with an injury. He just returned, so you could chalk the numbers up to that. But I’d be hesitant, as we don’t know how long it will take the rust to wear off. Not to mention, Drew is very injury prone, so he could suffer another injury going forward. You could make an argument that if he costs nothing in prospects, and if Barmes is still on the roster, then it wouldn’t hurt to give him a shot. Worst case scenario he continues struggling at the plate, doesn’t put up good defense, and the Pirates are out about $2 M.

Scutaro doesn’t have good defense at shortstop, but the bat is much better than what Barmes has been putting up. The Pirates would lose value defensively, but they’d make up for that with Scutaro’s numbers at the plate. The difference would probably amount to one extra win over the remainder of the year, based on how Barmes and Scutaro are both currently playing.

Drew and Scutaro don’t have much trade value. Arizona would have to pick up $2 M just to get a Grade C prospect, and that’s based on Drew’s 2011 numbers. Scutaro would be worth a Grade C hitting prospect. Both players would come with at least $2 M in salary.

Upgrading over Barmes shouldn’t be a priority. There are bigger holes on the roster that, if filled, can provide more of an impact than an offensive upgrade over the number eight hitter in the lineup. But if the Pirates can afford the extra $2 M — it doesn’t sound like much, but we’re not considering other deals that could take place which could increase the current salary — then that’s a low price to pay to add an extra win. Plus you’ve still got Barmes around for late inning defense, which is his strength, or as a backup plan, putting you back where you started if the new guy doesn’t work out.

Links and Notes

**Prospect Watch: Marte On a Cold Streak; Good Starts From Taillon, Holmes.

**Clay Holmes Impressive in Spikes Win.

**Thursday Trade Rumors. Tons of them.

**Minor Moves: Rodarrick Jones Released, Lower Level Moves.

**Pirates Sign Venezuelan Outfielder.

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9 COMMENTS

  1. If they can get another big bat they can “hide” Barmes in the 8 hole. He’s very good defensively and it seems to me that he’s been hitting more lately.

  2. Barmes is the veteran SS the team needs going down the wire. Getting Scutaro or Drew makes the bench much stronger and at this time the bench and right field are the biggest problems the Pirates have. Sutton should be on that bench, the fact that he is playing as much as he is shows the glaring weakness for another outfielder and if in the judgement of Huntington Marte is not ready, a trade will certainly have to happen. You can’t win without defense, If Barmes is removed the pitching staff will have 2 holes to worry about instead of one. Their playing with 7 fielders now, just think what it would be like to play with 6? Unfortunately we only keep stats on hits winning games, we don’t keep track of how many times a brilliant defensive play saves a game. If we did we might find out Barmes has more wins than we think.

  3. I’d guess the Pirates still wouldn’t cut him loose. I’d love Scutaro to replace him. Barmes could take over Mercer’s spot of never playing backup.

    • Actually, if the other 7 bats in the lineup keep hitting, I can live with Barmes at SS

      I’d still like to see Mercer given a chance to start everyday, but obviously Clint doesn’t like him. If you’re not gonna play him, bring up d’Arnaud….at least he can pinch run.

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