Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports is reporting that the Bucs are the frontrunner in the Clint Barmes sweepstakes. Barmes, who played for the Rockies under Clint Hurdle and then moved on to the Astros, is considered a strong & steady infielder with a little pop in his stick. He's looking for a starting gig with a two year deal in the $8-10M range, although SI's Jon Heyman hears it will be 2 years/$11M.
Barmes is a lifetime .252 hitter and can knock a dozen or so balls out of the yard every season. His UZR/150 for 2011 was an excellent 10.8, and it's at 7.2 for his career. He had a career high 3.1 WAR in 2011, and it looks like it's about to pay off for him.
If the FO lands him, it's been a nice job for them in the early days of the hot stove season. Zeroing in on Rod Barajas and Barmes, both toward the top of second-tier free agents at their position this year, should help the team defensively and give them a couple of guys that are at least a threat to go long.
Having said that, the Pirates haven't improved noticeably. Barajas is basically a Chris Snyder clone and Barmes is a less frustrating model of Cedeno.
Both are placeholders until the Bucco farm produces an everyday player, currently hoped to be Chase d'Arnaud and Tony Sanchez. But in a year when the free agent market is thin, they did well to tread water and not lose ground, even if they overpaid (maybe to keep the Player's Association at bay, maybe just to overcome the Pirate stigma, or maybe knowing what it would take to land their man against the competition).
They are still trawling the pitching waters, and crossing their fingers that a first baseman falls into their lap without breaking the bank. But until they bring in a top-of-the-rotation pitcher and a couple of mid order bats, they're not building but just buying time.