Pirates, Clint Barmes agree to deal
PITTSBURGH -- Clint Barmes wanted to play shortstop, not second base. He wanted a two-year deal and he wanted to play for Clint Hurdle.
The Pittsburgh Pirates were only too happy to meet all three demands.
Barmes and the Pirates agreed to a $10.5 million, two-year contract on Monday that gives the 33-year-old shortstop a chance to reunite with his old manager and gives Pittsburgh a chance to add some needed pop to the bottom of the lineup.
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"The deal that the Pirates were offering, to guarantee two years at shortstop it was hard to pass up," Barmes said.
Barmes spent the first seven seasons of his career playing under Hurdle in Colorado, helping the Rockies to the 2007 World Series while becoming one of the most dependable defensive shortstops in the game.
That relationship led the Pirates to aggressively court Barmes, who hit .244 with 12 home runs and 39 RBIs in 123 games last season with Houston, who acquired him in a trade with the Rockies.
Pittsburgh viewed Barmes as the third-best free agent prospect at shortstop behind Jose Reyes and Jimmy Rollins. While they don't have the deep pockets required to go after the perennial All-Stars, they did have enough to give Barmes a deal paying $5 million next year and $5.5 million in 2013, up from the $3,925,000 he made last season.
"In the past we've sat back and waited to see what everyone else picked through," Pittsburgh general manager Neal Huntington said. "You've got to be aggressive and in Clint's case it was guaranteeing the job at shortstop."
The Pirates were in need of someone to play alongside second baseman Neil Walker after releasing Ronny Cedeno, who played spectacularly at times and sporadically in others while providing very little power. Cedeno hit .249 with just two home runs in 128 games and sometimes angered Hurdle by taking unnecessary risks, getting benched one game for trying to drop a bunt in a bases-loaded situation.
There should be no such issues with Barmes, who has solid career stats at PNC Park, where he's hit .276 with four homers in just 24 career games.
"I've have had some success here and it definitely plays in the decision to sign here," Barmes said.
His job will be to provide some clubhouse leadership for one of baseball's youngest teams. The Pirates were in first place in the NL Central in late July before fading to a 70-92 finish, a 13-game improvement over 2010 when they had the worst record in the majors.
Hurdle's presence had a lot to do with the uptick, and Barmes is embracing the next part of what he hopes is a baseball Renaissance in a city starved for a winning product.
"The young talent that they've got and the season they've had last year, there's a lot of promise and a lot of good things to come," Barmes said. "It's only getting better and I'm excited to be a part of it."
Barmes is the second free agent signing by the Pirates in as many weeks. The team agreed to terms with veteran catcher Rod Barajas, hoping he can help mold a young pitching staff and provide some power for one of the National League's weakest offenses.
Pittsburgh hit just .244 as a team last year and finished 27th in the league in runs and home runs. Barmes and Barajas will try to change that while the Pirates will try to change the perception that they're unwilling to spend money to bring in contributors.
Huntington pointed to the team's quick courtship of Barmes as proof they're ready to invest the money necessary to compete.
"We could have been patient and maybe there's a better deal for us out there in December," Huntington said. "But at the same time we might have ended up with our sixth choice for catcher and our ninth choice for shortstop."
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press