The Toronto Blue Jays club currently has an opening at second base. A number of names have been bandied about including incumbent Kelly Johnson, former Jay Aaron Hill (who recently re-upped with Arizona), and Jamey Carroll (who just agreed to terms with Minnesota).
The best free agent option for Toronto, though, is Clint Barmes, an infielder who spent 2011 playing shortstop for the Houston Astros. The former Rockies draft pick hit just .244 but he produced a 3.1 WAR, good for a value of $14.1 million according to FanGraphs calculations. He made just over $3 million in '11 and is in line for a modest raise (probably no more than $5 million per season). He'll open the 2012 season at 33 years of ago so a two-year, $8-10 million contact might be reasonable.
Despite the "meh" batting average, Barmes walks at a reasonable clip (7.7%) and has line-drive power that produces a good number of doubles and 10-12 home runs a season. He's also a good base runner (who doesn't steal a ton of bases). Barmes handles the bat quite well and has a history of being able to bunt, sacrifice, and advance base runners.
This is important because he could fill a vital need for the Jays, not only at the keystone, but in the No. 2 hole in the lineup. The Jays club needs to get hitters on base - and into scoring position - in front of slugger Jose Bautista. Anyone who watched the club in 2011 knows that the Jays lineup struggled to play small ball and did not do a good job at advancing base runners. Barmes fits the No. 2 spot much better then the two players who spent the most time there last season: Corey Patterson and Eric Thames.
The real value in Barmes lies in his defense. He has experience at shortstop, second base and a little third base. According to his career UZR rates, Barmes is an above-average fielder at both middle infield positions. With four pitchers - including staff ace Ricky Romero - currently boasting above-average ground-ball tendencies, a strong middle infield is important.
1. Luis Perez 60.3 GB% in 2011
2. Ricky Romero 54.7
3. Joel Carreno 53.7
4. Henderson Alvarez 53.5
Barmes' posted a 10.8 UZR/150 at shortstop in '11. The last time he played second base regularly (‘09) he had a 6.1 UZR/150. Johnson had a 3.1 UZR/150 rate split between Arizona and Toronto in '11 and his career rate is -0.6. Former Jay Aaron Hill's career UZR/150 rate is 4.1. Barmes would be an outstanding option at second base, while also offering protection at two other positions.
Like C/1B/LF Ryan Doumit, whom I previously recommended for the Jays, Barmes is not a star player but he fills multiple club needs as a defensive-minded veteran with the necessary skills to fill the No. 2 spot in the lineup. He also comes at a reasonable cost (based on current market projections) and would not block any young players.