Pirates sign shortstop Barmes to two-year deal

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The Pirates filled another hole in their defense and continued their aggressive approach to free agency Monday when they agreed to terms with shortstop Clint Barmes.

Barmes will earn $10.5 million over two years.

Barmes spent 2011 with the Houston Astros and hit .244 with 12 home runs and 39 RBIs. He will replace Ronny Cedeno, who became a free agent when the Pirates declined to exercise his $3 million club option.

The deal will reunite him with Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, who managed Barmes between 2003-2009 when the two were with Colorado.

"I'm pleased to be back with Clint Hurdle and to play with him again," Barmes said in a conference call Monday. "That's why we made the deal when we did."

Barmes is also regarded as an elite defensive shortstop, scoring highly in advanced defensive metrics.

"As we look at the attributes Clint brings to the table, it's an above-average defensive player, it's positive intanglibles," Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said.

"At a position that's defense first for us, we thought it was a great fit."

"With the signing of Clint Barmes, we have added an above average defensive shortstop who will bring quality experience and reliability to the club on the playing field as well as a positive veteran presence in the clubhouse," Huntington said.

From the start, Barmes, 32, seemed an obvious candidate. He was drafted by the Colorado Rockies and played the first eight seasons of his major league career there. He played parts of seven seasons with the Rockies under Clint Hurdle, then the Rockies manager and now running the show with the Pirates.

The Pirates, who also signed catcher Rod Barajas to a one-year contract worth $4 million with a club option for 2013 worth $3.5 million, acted quickly in free agency this offseason, targeting players that filled their needs. Like all teams this offseason, they had to select free agents from a thin group of players featuring a suitable combination of affordability and performance. But while the two players' batting averages and on-base percentages underwhelm, they add power and above-average defense, leading the Pirates to pursue them in the free agent market.

Barmes has hit 10 or more home runs in a season four times in his career. In his past three seasons, he hit .242 with a .303 on-base percentage and 43 home runs, walking 104 times with 275 strikeouts.

Barmes, a right-handed batter, has hit for a higher average against lefties in his career but has more power against right-handers, hitting 47 homers against them compared to 23 off of lefties. He starts well -- a career .264 average in the first half of the season -- but tapers off, hitting .237 after the All-Star break.

In 24 career games at PNC Park, Barmes hit .276 with four home runs. Two of those came last season, when he hit .385 in eight games there.

The Pirates have now filled two of the three main holes in their defense. First base remains the final piece needed. The Pirates can offer salary arbitration to free agent Derrek Lee by Wednesday night in an attempt to retain him. They may also look elsewhere in free agency or via trade, and they have Matt Hague, who starred this season at Class AA Indianapolis, available if they decide on an internal option.

Bill Brink: bbrink@post-gazette.com and on Twitter @BrinkPG.


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