Assuming you buy into the abilities of outfielder Travis Snider, the Pittsburgh Pirates have only one real hole in their projected 2013 lineup. But it’s not just a hole. It’s a gaping Clint Barmes-sized void.
While Barmes is a strong defensive shortstop, he proved last year why he hasn’t always been considered a starter during his career. Despite his defensive prowess, Barmes managed to be less than a two-win player, thanks to a .229 batting average and a career-low 4.1 percent walk rate. He doesn’t hit for power, average, or get on base with any sort of ability. If he can’t manage to hit .270 (something he’s done just twice in his career), then he is completely useless offensively.
The Cleveland Indians have toyed with the idea this winter of trading their shortstop, Asdrubal Cabrera. Cabrera is an offense-first shortstop who broke out in 2011 with a 25 homer season and followed it up with 16 in last year’s campaign. He’s far from a perfect player, as he doesn’t get on base a ton and is below average defensively, but he’d still service as an upgrade over Barmes. Last year, even though it was a step back from his breakout 2011 season, Cabrera was still a three-win player. The year before, he was almost worth four wins.
The Pirates and Indians may not match up on a deal, and if the Indians demand any of the Pirates top pitching prospects like they did when they traded Shin-Soo Choo, then the Pirates must hang up the phone. But if the Indians have any interest in some of the Pirates second-tier prospects or any of the younger crop that are still in the lower levels of the minors, than perhaps a deal can be worked out. The Pirates could even throw Barmes in the deal, as the salaries of the two veterans are similar.
It’s a trade that may never happen, but it’s one the Pirates need to inquire on. they have a chance to compete this season, but they can’t have an offensive hole in their lineup as easily exploitable as Barmes was this past season.