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Bucs ink shortstop Barmes to two-year deal

Bucs ink shortstop Barmes to two-year deal

Bucs ink shortstop Barmes to two-year deal
PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates have filled their hole at shortstop, replacing Ronny Cedeno with Clint Barmes, who signed a two-year, $10.5 million deal with Pittsburgh.

The Pirates, who announced the signing Monday afternoon, will owe Barmes $5 million in 2012 and $5.5 million in '13. That makes the 32-year-old middle infielder currently the team's highest-paid player going into next year.

Pittsburgh had been looking for a new shortstop since deciding not to exercise Cedeno's $3 million option for 2012. That pushed Cedeno into a fairly thin free-agent shortstop market, which already included Barmes, who became a free agent at the end of the year due to service time.

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General manager Neal Huntington confirmed that, internally, Barmes ranked third on the team's list of free-agent shortstops, behind Jose Reyes and Jimmy Rollins. Unwilling to get into a bidding war for Reyes or Rollins, the Pirates immediately set their sights on Barmes.

"Much like the catching market, we felt like it was in our best interest to go get the guy that we wanted and felt like we had a legitimate chance to get," Huntington said. "In the past we sat back and waited to find what everybody else had picked through and hoped that we could get a good player. In these two instances, we decided to be aggressive and go get the guy that we wanted and that we felt like we could get."

Huntington admitted that the cost of being aggressive was having to sign Barmes to a two-year deal. Barmes, too, noted that getting the Pirates to agree to include a second guaranteed year in his contract made Pittsburgh an especially appealing destination.

"The deal that the Pirates were offering -- the guaranteed two years at shortstop -- it was hard to pass up," said Barmes, who spent 2011 in Houston. "This is the first big contract that my family and I have been able to agree upon."

Barmes said that most other interested teams were willing to talk about a one-year deal. The Brewers were one club considering a two-year offer, but Milwaukee was not in position to make a formal offer until there was some resolution with free agent Prince Fielder. The Astros, who are rebuilding, were not going to be able to afford to re-sign the middle infielder.

By securing Barmes' services before Reyes or Rollins signed, the Pirates ensured that the bidders who lose out on those two elite shortstops would not have time to pursue Barmes.

In Pittsburgh, Barmes will be reunited with Clint Hurdle, Barmes' long-time manager in Colorado. Drafted by the Rockies in 2000, Barmes spent parts of eight seasons in Colorado before being traded to the Astros.

Hurdle's presence in Pittsburgh -- as well as the manager's recruiting pitch this fall -- played a significant role in the negotiations, Barmes said. The opportunity to be a shortstop did, too.

"I wouldn't have minded playing second base, but getting to choose between the two, I definitely would choose shortstop over second base," said Barmes, who played almost exclusively at short in 2011.

Barmes has appeared in 306 Major League games as a second baseman and 455 at short. Though Barmes has played in the Majors each year since 2003, he has appeared in at least 130 games only three times. He missed the first month of the 2011 season with a fractured left hand.

A career .252 hitter, Barmes batted .244 with 27 doubles, 12 homers, 39 RBIs, 47 runs scored and a .312 on-base percentage this year. In comparison, Cedeno hit .249 with 25 doubles, two homers, 32 RBIs, 43 runs scored and a .297 on-base percentage in 128 games. Cedeno has a career average of .246.

Barmes led all regular National League shortstops in 2011 with a 7.9 ultimate zone rating, a sabermetric statistic that calculates how many more runs a player saves on defense than an average replacement. Cedeno's UZR last season was 5.9, also one of the better figures in the league.

The opportunity to replace Cedeno with a more consistent defender was particularly attractive to the Pirates, even though Cedeno would have been much less expensive.

"Clint is a very steady, a very reliable, solid-to-plus defender," Huntington said. "He's been one of the best in baseball over the last couple of years. He's going to be an additional presence in our clubhouse of some veteran leadership and some presence to help our young guys continue to grow and develop."

Barmes marks the second free agent to sign with the Pirates this month. Pittsburgh inked catcher Rod Barajas to a one-year deal on Nov. 10. The Bucs still have a big hole to fill at first base and would also like to fortify the rotation this winter.

The club has internal options to back up Barmes next season, though Huntington suggested that Chase d'Arnaud will not be one of them. Uncomfortable going into the season with d'Arnaud as the new everyday shortstop, d'Arnaud is likely to play in Triple-A so that he can get regular playing time.

"We still think the world of Chase. We still think that Chase is going to be a very good Major League shortstop," Huntington said. "We just need to take a step forward as an organization, and we felt like getting Clint Barmes at shortstop for us this year, and as we go forward, was the best way for us to take that step forward.

"We still believe [d'Arnaud] has a ways to go before he is ready to be that everyday big league shortstop. But he's going to get everything we have to get that out of him. We still think it's in there."

In order to make room for Barmes on the 40-man roster, the Pirates designated catcher Brian Jeroloman for assignment. Jeroloman had just become a member of the organization on Friday, when the Pirates claimed him off waivers from the Blue Jays.

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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