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.