Ronny Cedeno or Clint Barmes?

So the Pirates are nearing a two-year $11MM deal with Clint Barmes. That basically pays him to be a league-average shortstop over the next two years, which isn’t so bad. As @JunkStats points out, Barmes has averaged roughly 2 WAR/season since 2008, and it’s not like he’s that old. He’s 32. Had the Giants signed him for this amount, I think I would have been content. Especially considering that a) the John McDonalds and Willie Bloomquists of the world have gotten pretty friendly deals this offseason, and b) the Giants paid Miguel Tejada $6.5MM last offseason.

The Barmes deal has sparked an interesting debate: Ronny Cedeno v. Clint Barmes. Cedeno had a $3MM club option for 2012, but the Pirates chose not to pick it up — and to instead pay the $200K buyout. This is after Cedeno produced roughly 1.5 WAR this season (regardless of your metric of choice). That’s nearly league-average production, and worth about $6-7MM on the open market. In fact, there are those that believe that Cedeno (contract aside) is a better shortstop than Barmes.

Now I’m not one of those people. Cedeno’s a career .246/.286/.353 (63 wRC+) hitter, whereas Barmes is a career .252/.302/.401 (74 wRC+) hitter. Bill James projects the two for nearly a twenty-point difference in weighted on-base average. The defense is a little harder to measure, given how unreliable defensive metrics tend to be, but I’m inclined to believe that Barmes is also the better defender of the two. Go ahead and peruse their defensive ratings if you’d like (Barmes, Cedeno).

In any event, Cedeno’s not a worthless shortstop. He can’t hit, but for an above-average defensive shortstop, he’s not that bad. The Pirates very well may have set the market for Cedeno by declining his option, and if he’s getting a one-year $2MM deal this offseason…that’s pretty enticing. It kills me to say this — it honestly does. This is a guy that has batted ninth (behind the pitcher) many times in his career.

Yet at the same time, the Giants, as a team, didn’t hit much better than Cedeno in 2011. They’re out on Jose Reyes and Jimmy Rollins, and there are very few acceptable options left. They’re not going to spend big on shortstop, so their best route is to buy low. In this case, Cedeno appears to be a solid stopgap. He’s slightly better than Brandon Crawford, but more importantly, he’d allow Crawford to develop his hitting in Triple-A this season.

Yes, I’m seriously advocating for the Giants to sign Ronny Cedeno.

Arbitration Eligible: Jeff Keppinger

Yesterday, I looked at Mike Fontenot, who’s entering his third year of arbitration eligibility this offseason. Now we’ll examine Jeff Keppinger – one of a few Giants infielders up for arbitration this year. Like Fontenot, Keppinger is up for his third year of arbitration eligibility (though this is also Keppinger’s final year; Fontenot, on the other hand, is a Super Two). Oddly enough, the two have been similarly productive at the plate over their careers (both share a 92 OPS+).

In any event, Keppinger was acquired midseason in exchange for Henry Sosa and Jason Stoffel, and while the Giants didn’t give up a whole lot in the trade, the move didn’t exactly pan out. Keppinger, who lacks both patience and power at the plate, hit .255/.285/.333 in 230 plate appearances with the Giants (56 games), and .277/.300/.377 on the season as a whole. His hitting was quite underwhelming, and his defense was just as bad. He showed an incredible lack of range at second base in those 56 games, and actually managed a major-league worst -12 defensive runs saved in 791 innings in 2011.

Keppinger made $1.15MM a couple offseasons ago, and that amount doubled in his second go-around of arb-eligiblity. He’s set to again earn a pay increase — he’ll probably make nearly $3MM — which makes him a legitimate non-tender candidate; Brian Sabean has even referred to Keppinger as “maybe a luxury item.” Given that he’s not much of a hitter — the prototypical empty batting average guy — and that he’s not versatile defensively (even his defense at second base leaves a lot to be desired), the Giants are probably best off non-tendering him. Or there’s another option…

Middle infielders are getting paid this offseason — guys like Mark Ellis, John McDonald, Aaron Hill, etc. are signing for good money. As Josh has speculated, the way the market’s shaping up, the Giants might be able to trade Keppinger for a decent return. As a high-contact hitter — career 6.2% K rate — it’s easy to see how he could generate some interest on the trade market.

Anyway, Keppinger’s not really a good fit for the 2012 San Francisco Giants (even as Freddy Sanchez insurance), and whether it’s via trade or non-tender, the organization should part ways with him.