Clint Barmes is a thirty-four year old shortstop. He’s hit .221/.264/.329 this year, and the Pirates are paying him $5.5 million dollars for his services. His current contract is an atrocity, one of the biggest failures of the Neil Huntington era. All that may be true, but the Pirates ought to offer Barmes a contract for the 2014 season.
Jordy Mercer has been a great addition to the Pirates club this year; he’s young, swings a good bat, and he’s not a free agent until 2019. He’s clearly taking over the role of starting shortstop for the long term. If the Pirates re-sign Clint Barmes, it’s not going to be as the starting shortstop. It’s going to be as a backup infielder who provides flexibility to allow off days for Mercer and Neil Walker (provided Mercer slides over to second base on Walker’s off days). Barmes provides not just solid, regular defense, but he often provides strong, exceptional play behind his pitchers (no matter how angry A.J. Burnett may get over shifts that don’t go his way).
Barmes as a backup would also help to provide more stability and continuity for a young team (the Pirates starting eight comes in with an average age just over 26), which is invaluable for a team trying to build on a couple of seasons that have gotten progressively stronger.
While some of Barmes’ qualities may be harder to quantify than others, it’s become well known the Clint Barmes is simultaneously one of the most intense players in the Pirates clubhouse, while being one of the most agreeable guys as well. Intangibles and “veteran presence” aren’t enough to merit anywhere near what the Pirates have paid him over the last two years, but combined with Barmes’ impressive abilities in the field and the fact that he’s a career .247 hitter, there’s sufficient reason to try to bring Barmes back for one more year, at a significant discount compared to his current contract. He’ll still frustrate at the plate sometimes (or often), but when placed in the context of being a backup rather than an everyday starter, that’s an acceptable trade off. As a defensive replacement, a getaway day starter, and just as a solid veteran infielder, re-signing Barmes would be a sound move by Neil Huntington and company. He may be an easy target for misplaced consternation, but he’s always smooth.