Barajas signs on as Pirates' starting catcher
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The Pirates filled their hole at catcher, signing Rod Barajas to a one-year deal for 2012 with a club option for '13, the team announced Thursday.
Barajas, 36, hit .230 with 16 home runs and 47 RBIs last season for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
"They were aggressive," Barajas said of the Pirates while on a conference call from Pittsburgh International Airport, where he awaited a flight to California. "They definitely showed that they wanted me to be a part of their team."
According to an industry source, Barajas will make $4 million in '12 with a $3.5 million club option in '13 and no buyout. The contract makes him the highest-paid player on the team.
The Pirates needed a starting catcher after declining to exercise options on Ryan Doumit and Chris Snyder.
Barajas played in 88 games as a catcher last season, and general manager Neal Huntington said Barajas will be the team's primary catcher.
"There's no question that it was a limited market free agent-wise," Huntington said on the conference call.
"We determined our best course of action was to be aggressive with the guy we wanted. In Rod's case, he liked the fit, we liked the fit and we were able to get it done."
Snyder had a $6.75 million option, but missed most of 2011 because of back surgery. Doumit, who had two option years for $15.5 million, missed time when his ankle was broken in a collision at the plate.
Barajas said he had offers from other teams, but the ability to be the primary catcher, among other variables, factored into his decision.
"I feel like I can definitely be a plus to any team," he said. "I'm not a big [batting] average guy, I'm not a high on-base percentage guy. But I can hit the ball out of the park, I can get some extra-base hits."
Barajas saw the current version of the Pirates from the opposing dugout in 2011 and said the energy stood out to him.
"You could definitely see they were having fun playing the game," he said. "That's one thing you love to see when you look across the field. Coming in to play them, they definitely have this fun attitude."
Huntington said Jason Jaramillo and Michael McKenry have the chance to back up Barajas.
Barajas first signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 1996. In his 13-year career, he played for the Diamondbacks, Texas Rangers, Philadelphia Phillies, Toronto Blue Jays and New York Mets before joining the Dodgers before the 2011 season.
His best season came in 2005 with the Rangers, when he hit .254 with 21 home runs and 60 RBIs. He has a career .238 average and .284 on-base percentage.
He has thrown out 31 percent of potential base stealers in his career.
"The ability to receive, the ability to block, the ability to game call, the presence, the veteran leadership, those were actually very important for us as we went through this process, no question," Huntington said.
Barajas adds some power to a lineup that lacked it, especially from the catcher's position.
"Right-handed power is something that's hard to come by in the game," Huntington said. "As we looked at the market we felt like this was a very good move for us."
Barajas soon will get to work learning the Pirates pitching staff, something he is used to after switching teams several times before.
"I feel like I have a pretty good handle on handling a pitching staff and [will] be able to help those guys out," he said. "I feel like that's my No. 1 priority, is to work with these guys and try to do it for six months instead of four."
First Published November 11, 2011 12:00 am