Instead of “Tebowing”, where one quickly kneels and prays in public, Pirates’ fans should coin “Huntingtoning”, where one suddenly gets down on all-fours in public, and randomly throws all the money from their pockets.
In December, 2000, then GM Cam Bonifay signed OF Derek Bell to a 2-year, $9.75MM contract, which quickly became his most harshly-panned free agent acquisition. Even before Bell’s infamous “operation shutdown” comments that spring- and even before he OPS’d .576 (.176 BA) in only 46 games before being released- knowledgable fans knew the move locked up an unproductive, past-his-prime veteran to an exhorbent sum of money…despite no actual interest from other teams. Bonifay was rightfully fired at the end of the 2001 season, with the Bell signing one of the biggest nails in his coffin.
Fast forward to 2011. Yesterday, GM Neal Huntington signed INF Clint Barmes to a 2-year, $10.5-11MM contract, which has already become is most criticized free agent signing, despite a long list from which to choose. Inexplicably, Huntington gave Barmes a multi-year deal that will pay him around $5.5MM per season, despite no actual interest from other teams. If Huntington is fired come October, 2012, I believe this will be one of the biggest nails in a coffin that’s shaping up eerily similar to the dimensions of Bonifay and Dave Littlefield before him.
Here are all the reasons Barmes was an abject failure of a signing:
1. Past Performance: Barmes’ production makes Bell’s .733 OPS in 2000 look divinely-inspired. Barmes posted a .698 OPS for the Astros in 2011, mired by a .312 OBP which is alarmingly above his career .302 OBP. Like fellow offseason acquisition C Rod Barajas, Barmes struggles to get on base, finishing 3 of his 9 MLB seasons with a sub-.300 OBP.
2. Murderer’s Row…In a Bad Way: A 7-8-9 of Barajas, Barmes, and the pitcher’s slot will be an absolute black hole comprising 33% of the lineup all year long. These 3 may not get on base consecutively all season. As a friend of mine pointed out, that’s giving away about 3 innings per game for an already-weak offense that’s going to need every opportunity it can get.
3. Age: In 2012, Rod Barajas will be 36. Barmes will be 32. We’re now 5 years into Huntington’s “plan”, and he’s still relying on terrible, aging FA acquisitions to fill slots that, had he competently performed his job in years prior, would already be filled internally.
4. Better Internal Options: Clint Barmes has a career 78 OPS+. Is that truly any better than a young, cheap combination of Chase D’Arnaud, Jordy Mercer, and Josh Harrison could’ve done? I’m not huge on any of these 3 players- Mercer in particular- but at least they would be young, affordable, and have potential. Harrison in particular posted an 81 OPS+ in his rookie year, already better than Barmes’s career average.
5. Blatant Waste of Money: We’ve seen the Pirates miss out on top prospects like Miguel Sano over a matter of $750,000. Is spending $11,000,000 on a poor 32-year old infielder really consistent with the “rebuilding” message?
Simply put, these are not the types of moves we as fans should be seeing this far into Neal Huntington’s tenure, if he had been even remotely as successful as the Pirates make him out to be. These are short-signed, costly, failure-guaranteed moves that shake even the most loyal fans’ trust in Huntington’s and club president Frank Coonelly’s basic baseball understanding.
I believe Neal Huntington will be terminated by October, 2012, and I believe the Barmes signing will be one of the blunders brought up most quickly. Thanks for reading.
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