So what has changed this offseason that has now made Clint Barmes a long shot to be re-signed?One factor affecting the decision that has not so much changed since the trade-deadline but more or less remained the same is the fact that the sale of the Houston Astros from Drayton Mclane to Jim Crane has still not been approved by MLB. Until this occurs, assuming Crane is in fact approved, we can only guess as to what type of budget Crane will allot Wade for free agency. The fact that Ed Wade indicated in the article that he does not expect to be big players in the free agent market and also hints that Barmes may be out of the Astros price range does not leave room for much hope for offseason acquisitions. This also assumes that once the sale is approved Wade will still be the person that is making the offseason decisions for the Astros.
Another interesting development that may have played a role in re-signing Barmes is the fact that he will be a Type B free agent this offseason. This means that if the Astros offer Barmes arbitration and he chooses to sign elsewhere then the Astros will receive a compensation round draft pick in next year’s amateur draft. Wade stated that he thinks the best plan of action was to continue the rebuilding process that was started when Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman were traded, and was continued this past season with the Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn trades. An extra draft pick in next year’s draft could help that process, and could also potentially lead to a better prospect than what could have been received had the Astros chosen to trade the defensively oriented shortstop as a half-season rental.
Who are some of the other viable candidates out there should the Astros explore the free agent shortstop market?
Assuming that Brian Bixler is depth or a utility infielder this season there are other free agent options out there that could still be interesting acquisitions. By choosing one of the lesser tier shortstop free agents Ed Wade could essentially solve both issues listed above by signing a more cost effective shortstop for next season while also receiving the compensation round draft pick due to Clint Barmes departure. Below is a look at some of the more intriguing shortstop free agents offensive and defensive statistics that could fit the Astros financial needs:
|Ronny Cedeno||2011||.249||.297||.339||.313||6.6%||20.5%||$2.05 Million|
|Ramon Santiago||2011||.260||.311||.384||.283||5.8%||12.9%||$1.25 Million|
|Jerry Hairston Jr.||2011||.270||.344||.383||.301||8.8%||12.2%||$2 Million|
|Jamey Carroll||2011||.290||.359||.347||.332||9.2%||11.4%||$1.8 Million|
|Alex Gonzalez||2011||.241||.270||.372||.285||3.7%||21.2%||$2.5 Million|
|Angel Sanchez||2011||.240||.305||.285||.278||8.2%||13.4%||$.432 Million||Career||.255||.304||.308||.302||6.1%||14.8%||Brian Bixler||2011||.205||.267||.265||.266||7.4%||20.2%||League Minimum||Career||.187||.248||.247||.286||5.8%||31.2%|
Both Angel Sanchez and Brian Bixler were listed in the chart for comparison purposes. Angel Sanchez had the lowest batting average of all the guys listed in 2011, but also had a batting average on balls in play 22 points lower than his career totals. Sanchez also had the lowest slugging percentage out of the group. Brian Bixler’s stat’s were listed, but due to the fact that he has only had 260 major league at-bats his offensive production is tough to gage at this point.
|Player||Season||Defensive Chances (SS)||Errors||Fielding %||DRS||UZR|
|Jerry Hairston Jr.||2011||3||0||1.000||1||0.2|
So to tie all of this together it looks like Ed Wade and the Astros have decided at least for now that Clint Barmes will be out of their price range. Wade also said that he does not expect to be major players in the free agent market, but did not necessarily rule out low key acquisitions. Should he choose to replace Barmes via free agency then guys like Jerry Hairston Jr., Ronny Cedeno, Ramon Santiago, Jamey Carroll, and Alex Gonzalez all make the case to be intriguing stopgap choices. If the Astros chose to go with their in-house options then Brian Bixler may be the better option based on the fact that he has a better minor league track record than Angel Sanchez. In a perfect world it would be nice to see one of the other free agents on this list holding down the position over the incumbent options, but budget constraints could keep that from being the case.