UPDATE: Pirates the favorites to sign Clint Barmes

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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.

Kyle Schwarber has lost 17-20 pounds

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As is offseason tradition, the first of player-shape reports are trickling in. These usually use some variation of the phrase “best shape of [my/his] life.” This one, though, avoids that at least.

According to ESPN’s Jesse Rogers, Cubs outfielder Kyle Schwarber has lost 17-20 pounds so far this offseason. Schwarber said that he’s “already big and strong,” so “might as well try to get more explosive, faster.”

Though Schwarber knocked out 30 home runs this past season, his numbers were otherwise pedestrian. He hit .211/.315/.467 with 59 RBI and 67 runs scored in 486 plate appearances.

There has been some speculation that the Cubs will try to trade Schwarber to an American League team where he can be a DH. He’s a subpar defender, so making him a full-time DH makes a lot of sense. So far, though, the only team that has been linked to Schwarber this offseason has been the Red Sox.