When the Pirates first signed Clint Barmes this offseason, I was anything but impressed. I could easily see him being the next Pirate free agent that falls apart once he puts on the Black and Gold. Since then there are many that have said that he was a really good pick up. Most notably on the MLB Network show, Clubhouse Confidential, they named Barmes one of the better free agent signings of the off season. While I still have a tough time wrapping my head around that, Barmes is clearly going to be key this season.
Last season the numbers showed that Ronny Cedeno was a slightly above average shortstop. Also last season, Clint Barmes was a slightly better shortstop than Cedeno. While I do not disagree with what WAR says, the performance of Barmes staying slightly better than just above average is pretty key.
The whole premise of the Pirates this season is going to be what the X factor is for the younger players. How much better can Pedro Alvarez, Andrew McCutchen, Neil Walker, Jose Tabata, and Alex Presley become. As younger players, there is a potential for a much wilder swing upwards of improvement, something the club is clearly banking on happening.
The key then is a guy like Barmes to continue to be just what he is. The Pirates had great improvement last season with a slightly above average guy, Cedeno, then there could be much more improvement with a guy that is better than that.
Can Barmes still be that valuable? Well he is a year older and moving to a ballpark that is neutral to hitters as a whole, but could sap his power with the left field at PNC. That might not matter all that much, as Barmes hit better on the road than in Houston last season. (Road .259/7/22 and Home .229/5/27) Perhaps moving from a horrible team in Houston to a not as horrible team in Pittsburgh, might help with the offensive production. Not that the club is counting on it, just looking for little more than slightly above average.
Barmes might be able to do it. He might not be the next free agent failure, but the ghost of Matt Diaz looms large.