Why were the Pirates so quick to pounce on Rod Barajas?

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This is one of those signings that’s pretty easy to bash. The Pirates announced Thursday that they’re giving journeyman Rod Barajas a cool $4 million to take over as their starting catcher. The deal includes a $3.5 million option for 2013.

It’ll be a career-best payday for the 36-year-old Barajas. He made $3.25 million while hitting .230/.287/.430 in 305 at-bats for the Dodgers last season. In 2010, he signed for a paltry $500,000 just as spring training was starting.

Barajas has simply never been in this kind of demand before. He had been a free agent five times previously; the earliest he had ever signed was Dec. 21.

So, why now? It’s not like Barajas is coming off a particularly big year. His .717 OPS for the Dodgers wasn’t a whole lot better than his career mark of .698.

I imagine it has something to do with the recent work that’s gone into evaluating catcher defense. According to Max Marchi’s work on The Hardball Times presented earlier this year, Barajas is one of the game’s very best pitch framers. Among starting catchers, only Russell Martin and Brian McCann do better in that area, which was pretty much impossible to evaluate before PITCHf/x data came along.

The Pirates probably have their own proprietary data on the subject that also suggests Barajas ranks among the game’s best defensive catchers. There certainly wouldn’t be any other big reason to give him $4 million on Nov. 10. He’ll hit his weight and knock a ball out of the park now and again, but his dreadful OBP hurts his value at the bottom of the lineup. He’ll need to make most of that money with his glove to be an asset for Pittsburgh.

Must-Click Link: The Best “Irony Jerseys”

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Our old friend Joe Posnanski tackles a venerable topic over at MLB.com: guys you totally forgot played for a given team. Mostly superstars who had brief stops at non-signature stations at the end of their careers. Or guys, like Mike Piazza and Reggie Jackson, who were with a team for a blink of an eye in between more famous way stations.

We’ve all had this conversation before: remember Willie Mays with the Mets? Doc Gooden with the Astros? John Smoltz with the Cardinals? Heck, I had forgotten about Smoltz with the Cardinals and he was a star on my favorite team once upon a time.

Posnanski calls them “Irony Jerseys.” That’s pretty appropriate, as one can totally imagine someone buying, say, that Dale Murphy Rockies jersey in the name of obscurity. Whatever you call it, it’s a good read.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to get my Ted Simmons Braves jersey for a party at some place uptown that you’ve probably never heard of.

The Mariners and Cardinals make a minor trade

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The Seattle Mariners and the St. Louis Cardinals have made a minor trade. Seattle has acquired lefty Marco Gonzales from the Cardinals in exchange for outfielder Tyler O’Neill.

Gonzales, the Cardinals’ first round pick out of Gonzaga back in 2013, is in his first season back from Tommy John surgery. It’s been a good season, in which he has posted a 2.78 ERA and 64/17 K/BB ratio over 74.1 innings across two minor league levels. He’s pitched one game for St. Louis this year and got shelled, but we’ll leave that go.

O’Neill is a third rounder from 2013. He has hit .269/.344/.505 in five minor league seasons. He’s holding his own in Triple-A this year, smacking 19 homers in 93 games.