I am super-super busy today so I have to wait a bit before I can give much analysis, but the Pirates have signed Rod Barajas to a one-year deal with a club option for 2013. As far as upgrading the defense behind the plate with a guy that might hit a little, Barajas makes plenty of sense.
A little bit more: Look, Barajas isn’t an exciting signing. I know that and you know that. He’s 36 and his offense appears to be tailing, which means that he could be a complete disaster at the plate in 2012. I wrote last week, though, that the Pirates wouldn’t (and probably shouldn’t) do much more than acqurie a stopgap behind the plate this winter and I think Barajas functions pretty well in that capacity.
Barajas has scored pretty strongly over the last two years in Matt Klaassen’s defensive metrics for catchers (2010, 2011), which makes him a big upgrade over Doumit in that category (it’s worth noting that McKenry didn’t score strongly behind the plate, either, in 2011). He won’t get on base very much (his career OBP is .284), but he managed to hit 16 homers in 98 games for the Dodgers last year and he’s hit with reasonable pop in 2010, as well. The chance that he’ll fall off the table this year, but honestly, even if that happened he might be an offensive upgrade over McKenry.
Because he’s only signed for one year at $4 million (that’s a fair price if you assume he’ll be worth something around one win above replacement in 2012, which doesn’t seem unreasonable), I don’t see any reason that he’d keep Eric Fryer off of the field if Fryer proves that he’s capable of being an every day catcher or if Tony Sanchez bounces back and tears the cover off of the ball in Indianapolis this year. Basically, he’s a one or two year (his option for 2012 is $3.5 million) insurance policy to keep the Pirates from just writing off the catching position entirely. There’s some risk here with his age, but I think there’s a decent chance when it’s all said and done that his defense will make it so that he’s not a huge downgrade over Doumit.
The bottom line is that the Pirates had to do something about their catching situation this winter and because of Sanchez, they weren’t going to do anything dramatic. I think I might’ve preferred Kelly Shoppach if the Pirates had a chance to sign him, but it’s possible that they didn’t or that the price was dramatically higher for Shoppach. In any case, Barajas was probably the best realistic free agent option for them behind Shoppach (Ramon Hernandez is Type A, Doumit is likely looking for multiple years, which makes them both unrealistic options), so even if this isn’t exactly a World Series clinching move, it doesn’t mean that it’s a bad one.