UPDATE: Jon Heyman of SI.com hears that Barmes is expected to receive a two-year contract worth around $11 million.
2:15 PM: Clint Barmes has drawn a surprising amount of interest in the early days of the Hot Stove season, but Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com hears that the Pirates appear to be the current favorites to sign him. Jon Heyman of SI.com is hearing similar information.
Barmes, who turns 33 in March, batted .244/.312/.386 with 12 home runs, 39 RBI and a .698 OPS over 495 plate appearances with the Astros this season. He is regarded as an elite defender and would represent an improvement for the Pirates, who had a lousy .249/.294/.335 batting line and .629 OPS out of the shortstop position this past season. Pittsburgh has an opening after declining Ronny Cedeno’s $3 million option late last month.
The Giants and Brewers are also involved in the bidding for Barmes, who Rosenthal hears will likely receive a two-year contract. Chances are he’ll sign for less money than Rafael Furcal, but as Matthew noted in his Top 111 free agents, there’s a case to be made that he’s the third-best shortstop available behind Jose Reyes and Jimmy Rollins.
Royals’ Opening Day starter Danny Duffy weathered a minor scare during Saturday’s Cactus League game against the Diamondbacks. The left-hander was removed from his final spring training start after experiencing some left shoulder tightness in the second and third innings. No lasting damage appears to have been done — Duffy told reporters that he simply felt a slight ache, nothing more — and it looks like he’ll remain on track to open the season with the team next Thursday.
The 29-year-old southpaw is coming off one of his best performances to date. Despite losing a few weeks to an oblique strain and elbow soreness, he went 9-10 in 24 starts and finished the 2017 season with a 3.81 ERA, 2.5 BB/9 and 8.0 SO/9 over 146 1/3 innings. While Duffy entered camp with a clean bill of health, he struggled to execute against his spring training opponents and racked up 13 runs, four homers, seven walks and 11 strikeouts in 13 innings of Cactus League play.
The Royals are scheduled to kick off their home opener against the White Sox on Thursday, March 29 at 4:15 PM ET. Barring any further complications with his shoulder, Duffy will take the mound for the Royals, while James Shields is expected to make his first Opening Day appearance for the White Sox.