“Clint Barmes had experience and is still getting better,” Clint Hurdle said. “Personally, I believe he’s got his best years in front of him.”
We pinned this Clint Hurdle quote to our wall a few months ago. Now, watching the two important, well compensated Pittsburgh Pirates off season free agent signings is getting more and more difficult to endure. Clint Barmes and Rod Barajas are simply painful to our eyes.
That’s saying a lot, because Pirates fans have seen a lot of terrible free agent signings during the past twenty years.
Yesterday, Barmes struck out three times against the Reds. If it wasn’t for a merciful Clint Hurdle pulling him for a pinch hitter late in the game, it might have been a golden sombrero for the Bucs shortstop.
Barmes had been on an offensive roll of sorts with four hits in his last nine at bats, all of them doubles. He was starting to silence the naysayers like me that questioned when the Bucs guaranteed $11 million bucks to a player who had a career triple slash of .230/.276/.361 away from Coors Field.
As we stand today, it appears that the Bucs replaced a light-hitting shortstop with a non-hitting shortstop. Barmes also has six errors which compounds the problem. The fact that it cost roughly four million to make this happen really confounds things.
Rod Barajas was brought here for his ability to handle a pitching staff, although when the Pirates signed Barajas the press release did pimp his ability to hit the long ball:
Since the beginning of the 2009 season, Barajas ranks third among all Major League catchers with 50 home runs, trailing only Brian McCann (64) and Miguel Olivo (51). During that time period he also ranks sixth among all backstops with 161 RBI.
Yesterday, Neal Huntington said that getting offense from Barajas would be a bonus, but he did admit they were expecting more from their starting catcher.
So, we guess it’s safe to say three extra base hits this season for Barajas isn’t enough. His 13 percent rate of throwing out runners is equally bad, and it appears that when teams decide to run–really make it a focus of their game plan–there will be little stopping it.
But look, we both know that the Pirates have done this before: in fact, we wrote about just this sort of scenario back in December. The hard part is that the Bucs wrote some serious checks for these two players. Hey, we don’t give a shit – it’s not our money, but seeing some production would be nice.
The solution isn’t easy. Perhaps Jordy Mercer should be given a shot at this time? –he is riding a seven game hitting streak. Perhaps, God forbid, Josh Harrison gets a few more starts? Perhaps Mike McKenry should start a bit more–he’s hitting like shit and has a 14% success rate at throwing out runners?
So, maybe Mac goes down to catch everyday, but who gets the call? Eric Fryer doesn’t seem to be the guy either, despite all our efforts. Tony Sanchez is having defensive struggles in a big way, and looks like he might not even make it to AAA this year if he keeps failing to improve.
Solutions are always the hard part, making the photoshops is easy shit. There just doesn’t appear to be an easy fix right now.
But let’s face it – we are still waiting for the good years Hurdle talked about from Barmes. The good years for Barajas appear to be in the rear view mirror.
We think that if the catchers could hit just a bit better, we could accept it. Unfortunately, when combined with the awful start to the season Barmes has had, the bottom of the Pirates order is just what we thought it would be. Out makers.
What would you do?
Here is our post from December: MAYBE THE PIRATES SHOULD JUST GIVE UP ON FREE AGENCY
It’s free agent signing season in Major League Baseball, that time of year when angst runs high among Pittsburgh Pirates fans. The Pirates suck at acquiring players in the free agent market.
When was the last time the Pirates hit it big with a free agent? Or even hit modestly? We’re pretty sure you know the answer.
We looked at a few recent picks like Ramon Vazquez who worked a career high 109 OPS+ in 2008 with the Rangers into a $3.8 million dollar deal with the Pirates. Vazquez was awful.
Vazquez was released in April 2010, and hasn’t had a major league plate appearance since.
As we move left to right on our Pittsburgh Pirates Usual Suspects lineup, Ryan Church was signed in January of 2010 for $1.5 million. Six months later, Pirates fans were thrilled when Church and D.J. Carrasco were shipped to Arizona for some cash for Bob Nutting, catcher Chris Snyder, and Pedro Ciriaco.
Church was ugly to watch. When he wasn’t running over Neil Walker, he was striking out in about 25 percent of his plate appearances. Church posted offensive numbers so low if we were to write them it would be hard to even decipher.
Like a large percentage of Pirates free agents signed over the years, Church was out of baseball last season. The Pirates would be his final paycheck.
We heard from a gentlemen whose son suffered from concussions like Church that the amount of medicine Church had to take was unreal. (We thought it couldn’t possibly match the amount of beer it took us to watch him play the outfield.)
A RumBunter favorite is Scott Olsen. What a great story this guy is. The Pirates offered him a $4 million deal with a $100,000 buyout. He never threw a pitch in the bigs for them. Not one pitch. Just plenty of bitch.
The only action we witnessed from Olsen was when a buxom autograph seeker that tracked him down in the right field corner at McKechnie Field in Bradenton.
Matt Diaz completes our lineup. $2 million dollars a year was invested in the Cave Man. The projections were there for a perfect platoon with Garrett Jones in right field.
In true Bucco fashion, the Diaz/GFJ platoon never worked out as planned.
Diaz was sent to the Braves for Eliecer Cardenas, a reliever who has dominated at the A-ball level. When Atlanta acquired Diaz, the thought would be that he would help put them over the top. They must have had the same feeling in about picking up Jack Wilson.
We all know how that worked out for the Braves. Serves those bastards right.
So the only question that remains is why do the Pirates try so hard in free agency? (Leave your suckiest Pirates’ free agent signing in the comments, please.) The team has proven that paying players in the lower tier of the market a few million dollars simply doesn’t work.
So, why do they continually do it? We know they have to fill out a Major League roster, but free agency isn’t the avenue for such acquisitions. We can’t imagine that all of the free agents the Bucs sign this year will all work out. It never seems to happen. It never happens.
So how about this… sign Carlos Pena to play first base, and wrap it up. Don’t sign another free agent – no matter what the cost. History shows us reaching for any other players is futile.
Here is our idea: since the talent at the higher levels in the Pirates system doesn’t have a starting pitcher that is ML ready, let the scout or evaluator that pushed for the Jose Veras deal select two starters from the scrap heap. Keep the cash that is usually pissed away on a ‘bounceback’ candidate in a secret spot so Nutting can’t get it, maybe in a ceiling tile above Frank’s office, and give it to the players who perform well in 2012.
As you probably know, the movie The Usual Suspects had a whopper of an ending. The Pittsburgh Pirates need an epic losing streak to end… now, that would be a whopper of an ending.
Relying on lower tier free agents seems a ridiculous way to reach such important goals. But heh, we get it.
Every team misses in the free agent market. Our question is this: When will the Pirates hit?