Barmes, signing with Pirates, reunites with Hurdle

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The Pirates filled another hole in their defense and continued their aggressive approach to free agency Monday when they officially signed shortstop Clint Barmes to a two-year contract.

Barmes will earn $10.5 million over the two years, according to an industry source.

"Two years guaranteed played a pretty good part in [choosing Pittsburgh]," Barmes said on a conference call. "This is the first big contract that my family and I have been able to sign or agree upon. That was very exciting as well. I'd be lying if I said that didn't play a part."

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.

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.

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

He had offers from other teams, he said, but they floated one-year deals and wanted him to play second base. The two-year deal and the ability to start at shortstop, he said, "was hard to pass up."

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 are underwhelming, they add power and above-average defense, leading the Pirates to pursue them in the free-agent market.

"Much like the catching market, we felt it was in our best interests to go get the guy we wanted," general manager Neal Huntington said on a conference call.

"In the past we've sat back and waited to see what everyone else picked through. In this instance we decided to be aggressive and go get the guys we wanted.

"There's a cost associated with that," he acknowledged. "You've got to be aggressive. In Clint's case, it was giving him the second year at those dollars."

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 left-handers in his career but has more power against right-handers, hitting 47 homers against them compared to 26 off of left-handers. 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 this past season, when he hit .385 in eight games there.

The Pirates gained a solid defender with the move as well.

"I wouldn't be where I'm at without my glove and what I've done defensively," Barmes said. "I take a lot of pride in my defense."

The Pirates have 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 might also look elsewhere in free agency or via trade, and they have Matt Hague, who starred this season at Class AAA Indianapolis, available if they decide on an internal option.

"I think there's a lot of promise and a lot of good things to come," Barmes said of his new team. "I'm excited to step in and play a leadership role in the infield."


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


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