Earlier this offseason, the Pirates declined options on both Chris Snyder ($6.75 million, $750K buyout) and Ryan Doumit (a combined $15.5 million for 2012-13, $500K buyout). Today, the Bucs brought in free agent backstop Rod Barajas on a one-year, $4 million deal with a 2013 club option worth $3.5 million. Believe it or not, that actually makes the former Dodger Pittsburgh's highest paid player at the moment.
The Pirates, 15th in the NL in slugging last season, likely value Barajas' pop. Barajas has slugged .424 over the past three seasons, compared to the .389 average for catchers over that time frame. He does most (OK, just about all) of his damage by turning on pitches thrown low and in:
As you might expect from that slugging on inside pitches, Barajas is a dead pull hitter:
Unfortunately, Barajas' offensive value is dragged down by his being one of the least disciplined hitters in the game. He has chased slightly over 39 percent of pitches thrown outside of the strike zone from 2009-2011, leaps and bounds above the 28 percent big league average. His OBP over the past three years is .275, compared to the .318 average for catchers. If it's anywhere near one of the four corners of the plate, Barajas is going fishin':
The move doesn't necessarily preclude Pittsburgh from offering Snyder (recovering from lower back surgery in June) a one-year, incentive-laden deal (Doumit and management don't seem inclined to negotiate a new deal), but Barajas is expected to be the Pirates' main catcher next season. Overall, it's pretty hard to get excited about a 36-year-old who has hit the DL in each of the past two years and has a career OBP in the .280s. Plus, Barajas' one strength -- his power -- may be mitigated in PNC Park, which decreases home run production for right-handed hitters by 27 percent compared to a neutral venue.
Pittsburgh figures to get what it paid for: a one win-type catcher who hopefully bridges the gap to prospect Tony Sanchez, the fourth overall pick in the 2009 draft who's basically the anti-Barajas by possessing a good eye and little thump (.240/.341/.318 at Double-A Altoona this past year). Still, Sanchez isn't such a knockout prospect, and guys like high-OBP hitters like Chris Ianetta and Geovany Soto could be available. You have to wonder: why lock into mediocrity at such an early stage of the off-season?