Today was a busy day of moves for the Pittsburgh Pirates. They acquired infielder Justin Sellers from the Cleveland Indians for cash considerations, then designated John Axford and Jeanmar Gomez for assignment (clearing spots on the 40-man roster for Sellers and Charlie Morton, who was reinstated from the DL).

The moves to DFA Axford and Gomez don’t amount to much. They were both heading for arbitration, and I had them both listed as non-tender candidates this year due to their performances. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Pirates tried to bring either pitcher back on minor league deals later in the off-season. I think that would be more likely with Gomez.

As for Sellers, my first thought when looking at his qualifications (utility infielder who can play shortstop) is that he would be the replacement on the bench for Josh Harrison, signaling that Harrison would be a starter. After looking a little deeper at Sellers, he seems to be more of a replacement for Clint Barmes as the backup shortstop, and a guy who can play other positions.

Sellers has no offensive value. He has a career .574 OPS in 287 MLB plate appearances. In Triple-A, he has a career .789 OPS, spending a lot of time in the hitter friendly PCL. This past season he had a .642 OPS in the International League.

The value Sellers brings is with his defense. He has a career 7.5 UZR/150 in 441.2 innings at the shortstop position in the majors, and a 38.8 UZR/150 in just 70.1 innings at third base. He’s got a -2.4 UZR/150 in 112.2 innings at second base. All of those are small sample sizes for UZR standards, but the scouting reports back up the numbers. Sellers isn’t as good defensively as Barmes — who has been in the 11.3-17.6 UZR/150 range over the last five years — but he is good defensively and will cost $1.5 M less than Barmes cost in 2014. There is also less of a need for Barmes, since Jordy Mercer finished in the top five in DRS, and seems to have the shortstop position locked down.

I wouldn’t be opposed to Barmes coming back on a smaller deal than his 2014 contract. His return would mean that Sellers would go to Triple-A to start the year (he has one option year remaining) and would come up in the event of an injury. Basically in that scenario, Sellers becomes the new Michael Martinez, except that he has strong defense at his positions, while Martinez had no value at all in the majors. That would make for a stronger overall team, and it could happen at a lower cost than what the Pirates paid for Barmes and Martinez last year.

The role for Sellers will be known as the off-season goes on. As for the moves today, all of the changes have been added to the 2015 payroll page, along with the future payroll page.

Links and Notes

**Pre-Order the 2015 Prospect Guide

**Pittsburgh Pirates 2015 Arbitration Estimates

**Pirates Designate Axford and Gomez For Assignment, Acquire Justin Sellers From Indians

**Winter Leagues: Mel Rojas Jr. Reaches Base Three Times Again

**AFL: Another Solid Performance From Joely Rodriguez

**AFL: Tyler Glasnow Runs Shutout Streak to Three Starts

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16 COMMENTS

  1. A team can never have enough players who are capable of fielding at shortstop. I see no downside to having Sellers in the system, but I suspect he will spend most of his time in Indiana waiting for somebody to get injured.

  2. Barmes spot on the team is a bench spot. I agree this guy doesn’t look like a good option, but that doesn’t mean Barmes is either. He’s not a PH option. He’s not a PR option. He has no range left in the field due to being so slow. If Pirates don’t sign him he’ll be out of the game. Hurdle needs to quit leaving his friendship make roster decisions. It cost the Bucco’s several game’s last year by keeping him. Move onto someone who can actually help the team.

    • I don’t know if I’d go as far as saying Barmes cost the Pirates several games last year, but I would agree that his role on the ballclub is becoming more and more limited, and less justifiable as his cost goes up; a team’s bench is only four or five guys, and they can’t all be glove-first types, especially relatively expensive glove-first types.

      • Maybe I didn’t post my point clearly. What I meant was by bringing him back last year kept them from signing someone else who could have helped in other areas. Not to mention at his age DL stints are a matter of when & how long which led to the other horrible options coming into play. Therefore several loses. Trickle down effect.

  3. I don’t see it. This is as much Barmes’ replacement as Morel was going to be Harrison’s replacement last off-season. There is a reason he has fewer than 100 MLB games in his career heading into his 29 year old season… he’s a AAA player. The Pirates got him because he has an option and provides some certainty in the AAA depth role. You don’t have to worry about him clearing waiver each time he is sent back. His role is to replace Michael Martinez, not Clint Barmes.

    Doesn’t mean they’re definitely bringing back Barmes but they’ve shown in the past $1M or $2M won’t scare them away from utility guys.

  4. Does anyone at the site (or any of our readers) have anything to report on Anna over this long break? I know about his time in the PCL and that could have played a part in his inflated numbers but he does seem legitimate with the bat at AAA if you look deeper into the numbers. I KNOW he’s not a MLB starter for us, but is he a 25th man possibility? Or will he at least be looking like one of our 26th-28th man roles from down in AAA? Orrrrr, is it all for nothing? Lol. The fans of his former teams (which I know can be wrong at times, shocker right?) who have seen him in the minors seemed fairly high on him during his time in their organizations.

  5. I doubt the Pirates are looking to save $1.5 mil by eliminating Barmes for this guy. Barmes took a cut to $2 mil last year and has been one of the best fielding Shortstops in the majors at least for the past 5 or 6 years. Also, he is like having a player/coach on the team and is too important in the clubhouse. However, we may have to move one of our AAA depth guys like Martinez, Andino, Anna, etc. Basically a nothing transaction.

    • I can’t see worrying about 1.5 million if Barmes still a better player than Sellers.
      But I guess a team that is consistently in bottom 5 of payroll has too.

      • They paid for Barmes last year. They paid for Inge and McDonald before that… they’re willing to pay a couple mil for veteran bench guys. The $1M and $2M deals have not been their payroll issue in the past.

          • Yes, except they spent it just last year so not really sure what has changed. So I disagree with Tim and the Pirates recent history does as well.

            • If they did everything the same as last year roster wise, the payroll would exceed 100 million. The realities of increases in arb for all the players who qualify, along with serious payoffs for Martin and Liriano, mean they have to cut in some places to afford increases in others.

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