Darwin Barney: Long term piece or stopgap?

Darwin Barney: Long term piece or stopgap?
Is Darwin Barney part of the Cubs core?

One of the most polarizing players of late has been 2B Darwin Barney.  A recent article in the NY Times said this,

Barney, in his second full season with the Cubs, was batting .268 through Friday with six home runs. He does not steal a lot of bases or score a lot. But defensively, he may be the best second baseman in baseball, and he is in the midst of one of the best seasons ever for a player at his position, having committed just one error in 112 games. It has been a challenging season for the Cubs, to say the least, but with Barney, 26; shortstop Starlin Castro, 22; and first baseman Anthony Rizzo, 23, the team has the makings of a legendary defensive infield.

Those are some pretty strong words and there is no question that Barney has been a standout defensive player.  He may win the Gold Glove.  He has already broken Ryne Sandberg's errorless streak record.  His UZR/150, an advanced metric that takes tries to encompass all aspects of a players defense, is the best in baseball.

His offense, as mentioned, is nothing special.  In fact, it is below average for a second baseman.  Fangraphs rates him as roughly 7 runs below replacement level.  His wOBA is an even .300, well below average and his runs created (RC+) is just 82.   The league average is 100. But it also says his defense has saved more runs than his offense has cost.  On balance, he's rated as an above average player, 2.4 wins above replacement level.

Is he a keeper?

That's where things get tricky.  This is a front office that values defense, particularly up the middle.  But it also values OBP and slugging.  It values run prevention but not necessarily more than it values run creation. It leaves Barney somewhere in the middle here and it's not surprising that we have some readers who value him highly while we have others who are eager to replace him.  The important question is where do the Cubs stand?

We know they weren't eager to trade him as rumors suggested the Cubs were asking for very good value in return. And why not? Barney is a proven regular, he's cost-controlled for 4 more years, and he's about to enter his peak performance seasons.  The Cubs also don't have an immediate impact replacement ready should they decide to move him.  The 2B job would likely fall to either Luis Valbuena or Adrian Cardenas.  Barney is inexpensive, so the Cubs aren't going to save money and they almost certainly won't get an upgrade.  In other words, the only real reason to replace Barney is if you trade him and get significant surplus value in return. The Cubs, after all, need multiple pieces, and if trading Barney helps them do that, then they need to consider that option.

Looking at the bigger picture, the Cubs do have some intriguing 2B prospects in the minors.  The most ready is AA 2B Logan Watkins, who currently has a .383 OBP to go with 26 SBs in 32 attempts.  He could be a long-term solution at leadoff man.  Watkins is also an above average defender at 2B, though he's not at Barney's level.  Further down the road, the Cubs have Ronald Torreyes, Zeke DeVoss, and Gioskar Amaya.  There are also prospects who could make a positional switch such as Javier Baez, Christian Villanueva, or Arismendy Alcantara.  Apart from Javier Baez, however, who may not be able to play 2B anyway, none are considered big impact prospects, at least not yet -- and Barney is an established above average MLB second baseman right now.

The bottom line is that it's a decision that the Cubs don't have to make this offseason.  They don't need to replace Barney and he's certainly an asset to the team. The Cubs can go into this offseason knowing they have 2B taken care of for the foreseeable future, though there are many variables that can change that such as a great trade offer or the emergence of one of their prospects.

poll by twiigs.com

Filed under: Analysis

Tags: Darwin Barney

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  • Heh, I'm just glad we don't have to decide now. The answer to this question will clear up soon. At the very least, we'll showcase Barney through July 2013. By then we'll know a lot more about our other 2B prospects. And at the deadline there may be a contender desperate to improve its defense up the middle, such that it would pay a high price in prospects for Barney's services. Much like Garza in 2012, we can afford to sit back in 2013 to see if there's a team who will blow us away, and if not, no big deal. Barney's elite defense is a great example to Castro and Rizzo, as well as a boon for our young pitching staff.

    Yet another possibility is that Darwin continues to evolve as an offensive factor, such that he really is the long-term answer. You couldn't have got me to believe last year that he'd ever hit more than 5 homers in a year, but he's already done that, so who knows what other improvements he can make.

  • In reply to Taft:

    Agreed. No rush. He gives you an above average player and the Cubs don't have a lot of those right now.

    A lot depends too on what happens around him. If Castro emerges, Rizzo keeps hitting, and Baez, Soler, and Almora become the studs everyone thinks they can be...then maybe you don't need to have an offensive 2B and you can live with having a gold-glove caliber 2B who bats 8th.

    It's a tough question and it looks like, as of this moment, the readers are pretty split.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    This is a very good problem to have, no?

    He reminds me, if you've followed the Bulls at all, of Omer Asik.

  • In reply to Go Bullz:

    I do follow the Bulls. I'm guessing you mean it's like Asik because of the pros and cons on whether to keep or let go?

  • In reply to Taft:

    Taft..,you make some excellent points. The Garza comparison is where you lost me. 3 more years of control for Barney, who is healthy--------1 year control of Garza who is not..,so not in fact, he'll be out the last 2+ months of the season.

  • When he came up he was evaluated as average to below average defensively. Hopefully his offense will continue to improve as his defense has. But he's very cheap so the Cubs have no wrong answer here.

  • In reply to Cubswin4harry:

    Agreed. They can't really lose on this. He certainly doesn't hurt you...but if there is a team that expects to contend in 2013 with a gaping hole at 2B...well then maybe you consider a deal if they want to pay up.

    I had different evaluations on his early defense. More along the lines of average to above average, but not special, a guy who made up with limited natural range with great instincts and positioning. In all honesty, that seems to be true even today, though he's been more athletic out there than I thought he would be and his defense has to rate better than merely "above average" at this point.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I may be remembering it wrong or remembering critics of his SS defense.

  • In reply to Cubswin4harry:

    I'm sure there were critics that saw it that way too. I'm not saying you're wrong, just saying I had different info/evaluation.

  • I voted Barney as a "keeper". As mentioned, there's no reason not to keep him until someone else in the system can replace him, unless the Cubs are blown away by a trade offer.

  • Agreed, nobody can replace at this point. Of course things could change, but as they stand right now, he's the best they have until someone proves otherwise.

  • I think it really depends on the identity of the team at the time it is ready to contend. If our hitting is good enough that we can afford to have a defensive minded player at the bottom of the order, then I have no problem with Barney. But if we need some more run production, and another 2nd baseman is major league ready, then I have no problem pulling the trigger. What has really changed in my opinion about him over the past season is that if he is not starting on the Cubs, he will start for somebody. Making him the utility infielder is no longer an option.

  • In reply to elusivekarp:

    I totally agree with putting into context like this and probably the best answer is that the Cubs just don't know at this point.

    It really is hard to envision him as a utility guy at this point simply because his defense is so good that it makes him an above average player overall. How many teams can afford the luxury of having an above average MLB starter on the bench?

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    I love Barney, but for me it comes down to the fact that Barney is a true shortstop, both because of his defense and his bat, and, obviously, Starlin Castro is not going anywhere, which means Barney should have more value to another team than to the Cubs. It remains to be seen if some other team with a need at shortstop would also feel that way and offer the Cubs a good enough return...

  • In reply to João Lucas:

    I agree that at SS that offense plays a lot better. I do worry whether he has enough arm to be anything more than an average defender there, simply because it won't allow him to make all the plays.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    You're right, his arm could be a liability at shortstop. I still feel he would be at least above average defensively, but I might be wrong. And maybe no team would make a big bet on him playing shortstop without seeing him play there consistently. And Starlin Castro is not helping the cause by never getting hurt! (Just kidding.)

  • In reply to João Lucas:

    He could be above average, one way to compensate is if he learns to quickly get rid of the ball the way Ozzie Smith and some others with weaker arms have done in the past. If he could be above average at SS, that would add tremendous value.

  • I say keep him. If a prospect takes his job, Barney will be a great backup for the middle. Every champianship team needs a glue player like him. Those types are hard to find as well.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    He'd be a top of the scale backup. If any team, including the Cubs, can afford to have him as a backup, then you're probably looking at a very, very good team.

  • There are a lot of other positions that the Cubs need to address before worrying about Barney.

    I know the stats say he's a great 2B and he seem to pass the eye test to me, but a lot of the national guys (Law, Goldstein) say it's more a result of good defensive positioning / shifts than his skill level. Any reaction to this?

  • In reply to cowboy2024:

    Well, I think it's always been partly about positioning with Barney. My response to that is that it really doesnt make a difference. If he's making more plays than everyone else, then that's where the value lies. It may look prettier if a guy is out of position and uses superior athleticism to make a tremendous play...but the result is essentially the same. Once upon a time, Cal Ripken used to get to more balls than guys who were simply quicker and more athletic. In the end it's making the plays that matter.

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    Barney is a really curious guy. To put that 2.5 Fangraphs WAR into perspective, the highest in baseball is 7.4 by some guy named after a fish. (With 20 fewer games than everyone else.) Second is McCutchen, 6.3. So, he's hardly a world beater.

    However, we're talking about how important he is to the Cubs. There, he's second. First is Alfonso Soriano at 3.0. He's actually comparable to Alfonso Soriano based on that. Another guy he's close to, Starlin Castro, is .3 behind him at 2.2. This guy means a lot to us *as we're currently constructed.*

    What about long term. Well, at the moment Barney's 2.5 stands in a 3-way tie for tenth among second baseman (Uggla and Altuve). Altuve is particularly interesting there. He, according to the metrics, is a brutal fielder, but makes up for his poor glove with his bat. One quick metric for this on Fangraphs (I'm feeling lazy) is wRC+, which gives runs created compared to league average. By that metric, Altuve creates 17% more runs than league average, Barney 17% fewer.

    So, while Barney is an important part of the team, and could certainly contribute to a World Series winner with his glove, we'd be crazy *not* to upgrade at that position if a better overall second baseman came along. We have guys in the minors -- as John mentioned in his article -- that could, possibly, do that at the major league level. If, next June, Logan Watkins is ripping up the PCL with a .400 OBP and solid fielding, there's no reason NOT to let him have some major league starts and, potentially, wish Darwin luck in his career with the Tigers.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    In general, a 2 WAR player is about average and Barney is right around that (slightly higher), mostly on the strength of his defense. That said, yes, you always have to consider improving that if you can.

    The alternative view here is that if you have a much better offensive team, than you're probably better off adding someone like Barney than someone like Altuve. You can afford to sacrifice some run creation for run prevention. Also depends on your pitching staff...lots of groundball guys, then you want Barney...flyball pitcher, then maybe he's not as valuable. It really can be a complex issue and I'm sure Theo, Jed, and co., will analyze this with better tools and a lot more info than I have.

    In the end, I do agree, especially because I think the Cubs desperately need to upgrade OBP and they have to strongly consider adding guys like Watkins to the mix. I don't know if Watkins will be ready, he's been slow to adapt whenever he's been promoted, and then he catches fire starting in May or June. Perhaps the Cubs should give him an early taste as he's due to be added to the 40 man or be exposed to the rule 5, and I'm sure he'd be taken in the short term as a near ready MLB utility man with speed and versatility off the bench. They can wait until the offseason to add him, but wonder if they might want to get an early look and promote him in September. I doubt that's the case, but I'd like to see it happen. Either way, I believe he starts in AAA next year barring some sort of move. He's not a skip-a-level type of prospect in my eyes.

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    Lol John I was literally asking myself this question last night.. I read an article that said cubs middle infield is set for years to come with Castro and Barney.. I was like im not so sure if he's goin to be here for years to come let alone next year.. His value has raised so much that I think they will get a deal Theo and Jed won't pass up..

  • In reply to Colman Conneely:

    Agreed...I don't think Barney is as set in stone as Castro. While they won't look to trade him, I think they'd do it for the right offer.

  • It does seem the Cubs have wave after wave of possible solutions at 2B. You could add Lake, though a 6'5" 225lb person is big, Candelario, Hernandez, Bruno, and Saunders. But I say why not keep a couple of them it doesn't have to be one or the other. There are always injuries. If someone blows you away with an offer for Barney of course you do it. But why can't we put one on the field and one on the bench. Dare I say depth on the Cubs.

  • In reply to John57:

    Barney on the bench would be tremendous. If they can afford to do that rather than acquire value for him, it means they're in very good shape. The Cubs have lots of options at 2B and you mentioned a few others, though I will say that Candelario can't play 2B. He can barely play 3B right now.

    I also think Hernandez, plus a guy I picked, Alcantara, have so much more value at SS that I think it's better if you keep them there and trade them if they succeed at the upper levels.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    What's the deal with Alcantara? He's been out of the box scores for a long time now. I remember hearing leg injury. Any updates? Hope it won't impact his speed.

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    In reply to John57:

    I didn't know Lake was that big... Damn.. I'd like to see him in the OF,. Heard he has a really strong arm..

  • In reply to Colman Conneely:

    Officially he is listed at 6'2" and 215 lbs, but John said he has had a 2 to 3 inch growth spurt recently. I assume he gained 10 lbs with the 2-3 inches. And right now he is playing SS at AA. He might need some time to get used to his new size. Maybe he will develop good power.

  • I'm torn on Barney. As I've said here before, I like his intangibles/leadership qualities. But because he's average at best offensively, there will probably always be talk of upgrading. I've got to say though, while he has turned into a great defender, I think the people who compare his defense to a HOFer in Sandberg (and even criticize Sandberg, saying he's overrated, didn't dive for balls, etc.) are getting carried away to say the least.

  • In reply to Ricardo:

    He's definitely the best defender since Ryno, but he has to do it over a longer period of time before we can say he's better.

  • The person that I'm really looking forward to seeing return is Ian Stewart...I know I know so far not a stud and the last couple years have been waaaaaaaay under expectations but I'm hoping that when he comes back post surgury we see the real Ian. I've been a fan since he started playing here in Asheville and i personally think he's going to be the real deal. I really hope the Cub's don't cut him loose without him having a chance to show what he can really do.

  • In reply to carolinacub:

    I was always a Stewart fan as well, even as a prospect. I think they'll bring him back at a discounted rate.

  • I don't see the Cubs replacing Barney unless they could get top quality pitching prospects in return. Reading the NYTimes article, they cite the WAR stats from Baseball Reference instead of Fangraphs. According the the article, in Baseball Reference, Barney is rated as in a tie for the 9th best WAR in all of baseball!
    So I'm not sure whether to view Barney through the lens of Baseball Reference's WAR or through Fangraphs', as their WAR assessments differ so drastically.
    It's possible that Barney is more valuable than is being acknowledged. If Logan Watkins is going to take his spot he's going to have to come and get it.

  • In reply to baseballet:

    The 9th best player in baseball...that just proves how ridiculous some of these stats are getting if they say Darwin Barney is the 9th best player in baseball. Trade him now while he has any bit of value cuz if they don't they will miss out on the opportunity just like they did with lahair.

  • In reply to baseballet:

    No doubt Barney is a valuable player, but I think the WAR in Baseball-Reference overstates the value of defense, which is why I went with Fangraphs. I'd be shocked if B-R didn't tweak their defensive metrics for next season.

  • I think I'm with you John, let's wait and see . I'm not sold on Barney being the long term solution quite yet, although he's a good fielder I'm not convinced he's a full time 2nd baseman, offense wise

  • In reply to Steve Flores:

    Offensively, he's not a full-time 2B. Pretty much all his value comes from his defense. The Cubs have to decide if they want more balanced production at that position.

  • I vote keeper. Not only is he an outstanding defensive 2B, but he's made strides with the bat. His BB% is up and his K% is down from last season. Ditto his ISO. He'll never be an offensive asset, but he's good enough to be a supporting cast member on a contending team. As an added bonus, he's good at precisely the things that don't earn players huge bonuses in arbitration, meaning he's likely to remain a bargain for years. There's a ton of surplus value here. If the Cubs don't keep him, it had better be because they traded him for top shelf minor league talent.

  • In reply to Eddie:

    Real strong argument, Eddie! That is an excellent case for keeping him.

  • In reply to Eddie:

    I completely agree. I think we may be underplaying just how good defensively the numbers are showing Barney has been this year. Just being considered for the Gold Glove at 2B is a big deal, but to have the best defensive metrics of any player in baseball? I don't think you can just cash that chip in just yet. Barney is every bit a starting 2B on a championship team, and I think the wave of offense that will continue to filter through from the minors should offset Barney if his bat doesn't improve. I think his bat will improve though. He really has been very unlucky this season. Just a .284 BABIP for a guy with a 23.8 line drive %. That LD% puts him tied for 25th in MLB with Mike Trout.

    As Barney enters his prime he could contribute on offense while providing the best 2B glove in the NL, that is a guy I want to stick around.

  • I vote keeper as well. The problem I have with measuring him by statistics is that he's compared to players that have bigger "roles" on their team. Dan Uggla is signed and expected to produce runs. Tony Phillips too. Some are asked to be table setters. But all of those teams have players whose "role" is to play good defense and do the little things. Ganted the Cubs aren't a role player away from anything. But all teams need 'em and Barney's a good one. And until a team actually makes it worth the Cubs while to consider not having him, the answer seems rather simple to me.

  • In reply to felzz:

    He is a good role player and the Cubs could certainly use a player like that if they are able to build offense at other positions. The question is, can a smallish guy like Barney continue to be that kind of player in his 30s? 2B is a demanding position.

  • I like Barney a lot, for his defense up the middle, and peak years are ahead of us - with a guy who keeps improving. Sure, better OBP and slugging would be nice at 2nd, but not essential.

    Don't see any prospects ready to take over in the next 1.5 years. Can't see us moving him next July - not many teams are looking to upgrade their defense then. An offseason deal involving lots of pitching in return is the only scenario I can see where he would be moved. Hold onto him, at least until someone pushes him, which could be a while.

  • In reply to TokyoCraig:

    That's my general thought too. You have to get value and be reasonably sure you have an adequate replacement.

  • By July 31 of next year we should know if our any of our 2nd
    base prospects will be ready to take over.

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    I think only Watkins might be ready by then and even that's no sure thing because the Cubs like to give guys more time in AAA than that.

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    Barney is 26 years old and approaching his prime years now, while the Cubs are still atrocious. That scares me a little bit. It also scares me that Barney isn't great on offense and is not a fast baserunner and will only get slower. If the Cubs get a good offer for Barney I don't think they should hesitate to trade him, but there is no reason to just dump him unless the way he chews his gum bothers the front office like it bothers me.

  • In reply to Demarrer:

    That's the part that makes it harder to think in terms of a permanent solution. Can he still be the same player as he ages? We've shown he has some ability to adapt, but he'd have to re-invent himself as a different kind of player altogether if he lost any speed/range in his 30s, and I'm not sure he can do that.

  • I had a vision while running errands this morning. Rizzo, Castro and Barney were celebrating in the infield after the Cubs had just won the World Series. Couldn't make out who the third baseman or pitcher or catcher were and the outfielders were still sprinting in.

  • Was it Stewart, Vitters or Stephen Drew??

    John, how would Drew project at 3B? I'm not even sure he'd be willing to shift there, but his ankle should limit his range from SS. I'd like his lefty bat in the lineup.

  • In reply to Greg Shuey:

    Not sure if it was Stewart or not. Hopefully the Cubs give him another chance.

  • In reply to Greg Shuey:

    He'd be good defensively I think but not sure he can carry the offense expected there. As a stopgap/backup to Castro maybe. He'd also have to stay healthy.

  • I vote to keep, and I vote we need to be outraged when he doesn't win the Gold Glove. $100 says it goes to a good defender who has better offensive stats.

  • In reply to Jimmy Greenfield:

    Phillips?

  • In reply to Jimmy Greenfield:

    Can't take that bet... As Ray mentioned below, there's Phillips who has both the better bat and the reputation -- which sadly are two keys to winning the award.

    I'm encouraged he got written up in the Times. He is starting to get some national attention, so I think he has a pretty good chance. Maybe a beer?

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    A beer it is. I hope I have to pay it out.

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    if Baez can play SS he can play 2b.

    The Cubs don't have to make a decision on Barney yet, he's still affordable for several more years. He's very similar to Ryan Theriot, in that he does enough to be a starter on many teams, but once he goes through arbitration a couple of time he's going to get enough of a raise that he's suddenly not so attractive (unless he improves offensively, which he could).

    Barney and Theriot's biggest value are/were they were inexpensive starters. As an entire package they were only average or below average, so once they are making $3-4 million it doesn't make a lot of sense to keep them for what you get. However, Barney is a little different in how much better defensively he is than Theriot (and everyone else in baseball this year).

  • In reply to Just Win:

    Totally agree with the financial angle. His value is in great part tied to his low salary, once he's making $4M through arb, he becomes a lot more replaceable. But if you want value, you have to trade him before it gets to that point.

    He can play SS now, but he's 19 and we can't say for certain what his body will be like at 22, much less 27-28. I don't think we can take that as a given. That would be tremendous if he could and it wouldn't surprise me to see him get reps at 2B in instructs this offseason if he doesn't got to the Fall League.

  • In reply to Just Win:

    Plus Barney doesn't get thrown out on the basepaths every other game!

  • I agree with Stewart and Phillips getting the vote. It's ironic that the guy with the best glove also has one of the better bats. I like Stewart's glove a lot. I'm so unsure of his hitting because of his wrist. That's not a good injury for baseball players. It's like shoulder capsule problems for pitchers. It gets tricky.

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    John, could Christian Villanueva end up being a solid 2B? Offensively, how well is he projected to do?

  • In reply to Demarrer:

    TX tried him there. Some people think he can. He's athletic enough. Size and bat projects better there.

    Offensively he's average across the board,which would make him an asset at 2B.

  • St. Louis has made a decade-long run of NL Central dominance, and 2 WS rings with craptastic offensive 2B/SS. With the exception of perhaps Edgar Renteria & Mark Grudzielanek, who hit fairly well, you have Eckstein, Furcal, Adam Kennedy, Ryan Theriot, Brendan Ryan, etc.

    They get their power from the corners, strong defense up the middle, and great pitching

    See also: Boston prior to Dustin Pedroia. Hell, they shipped out Nomar for Orlando Hudson

  • In reply to BBullerman:

    Good points, have always noticed STL doesn't put out the best 2b since Tommy Herr. However it was Orlando Cabrera not O Dog.

  • I like Barney, I think the Cubs could win with him. However, if some team wants to overpay for him I would deal him for sure, he will be about 30 before the Cubs are going to contend and we have Watkins and Baez as possibilities. It's a nice position, I hope we don't sit on him and he ends up being just a guy when we could have sold high.

  • In reply to Tom Loxas:

    Great point about his age. Although Hudson, Eckstein, Furcal, etc were/are all "over the hill."

    Agree it would be great to a guy who can do it all. But I would rather have Barney than a young 2nd coming of Todd Walker

  • I believe the Cubs will not only contend but will have won at least 1 World Series before Darwin Barney turns 30.

  • Pretty bold statement!

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    You're right, John. Now I'm hedging. I'll amend my statement. The Cubs will have won at least one World Series before Barney turns 32.

  • That's more likely. I just like the sound of one Worlds Series and Cubs in the same sentence!

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I agree. Just seeing the words Cubs and World Series and won in the same sentence is great.

  • The "Purple Evolutionist" sure is polarizing... In the end, I admire all the hard work he puts in to simply get to this level.

    I am looking forward to seeing what the Cubs do with him in the future. I think the result will give us some insight on what benchmarks and metrics the FO values more.

  • With a name like Darwin Barney, he must understand the bit about survival of the fittest.

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    His game continues to evolve.

  • If there's one thing that Barney has proven, it's that he will strive to get better. Defensive stats aside, his offense has shown some promise year over year. He has 4 more homers, one more double, a higher slugging, and the same amount of walks in 122 less at bats. I know his conditioning in the off season was to get him through the year without wearing down. He hasn't done that. Since he has shown he can hit the ball into the gaps, I would think if he shows a little more patience at the plate to raise his OBP, I'd be ecstatic. If he can have a line of .275/.340/.400, that's good. This is a good problem to have.

  • In reply to Break The Curse:

    No question, he'll keep working and keep adding to his game. I do think there's a limit with him physically, but he's already a good ballplayer. If he put up that kind of line, I'd be happy. Not impossible, the toughest part would be upping those walks to around 45 or so over 600 PAs. He's got 22 now in 435 PAs.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Agreed. At his pace, he would need 15 more walks on the year. He had 18 BB before the all star break, only 4 since - 3.7% in July, 4.9% in August. I'm not convinced he can do it but he's proven me wrong before.

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    I'm a big Barney fan and feel that unless someone comes along and takes his job away we should be content with him at 2B. Great point by Bullerman about the Cards and their middle guys.
    The highest value Barney brings to the table, IMO, are his intangibles. You can rate all the various measures you want, but I haven't yet seen a statistical rating put on makeup and leadership. ( I think BA may rate makeup for draft picks.)
    Barney has won at every level, often being singled out as the catalyst of championship teams. He is fundamentally sound and a pro's pro.
    If the other guys develop and hit as projected, the Cubs would be very lucky to have a sound defender and great leader in the middle. Castro and Barney are developing some great chemistry up the middle. You factor in BJackson and Castillo and I think you have the makings of a championship team up the middle.
    Theo already pointed out his non-linear theory of team improvement, and I believe if the Cubs can throw a rotation of Garza-Shark-Vizcaino-Wood out there next year with offensive breakouts from the young hitters...well, this team could improve by leaps and bounds in a short time. I see a contender by mid-2014 or 2015 at the latest!

  • You like to have a couple of those kinds of players on your team, no doubt.

  • With the Angels desperate for a reliever, falling out of the race with such a talented team, the Cubs having Marmol who cleared waivers and has really improved since the beginning of the year and is nearly back, dear I say, to his dominant form (with that good speed on his fastball), can I get a Marmol and cash deal to the Angels for Richardson? Sounds like a match made in heaven! Marmol is under contract for 9.8m next year too and the way he's been pitching lately and with the troubles of the Angels bullpen, that might actually be a good deal.

  • In reply to apalifer:

    Do you mean Richards, their pitching prospect? If so that would be great, but I don't think they're that desperate.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    They did bet the ranch on winning this year with that poorly-advised Greinke trade. Pretty soon that team is going to be Mike Trout, and aging Albert Pujols, and a bunch of other guys.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    That is true, but do they compound the problem by trading prospects for iffy relievers or regroup for next year? Marmol can't be their answer. They might end up trading for him, but not for Richards, imo.

  • John, just curious. What did/ what would you have voted?

  • In reply to drew:

    I think ideally he's a stopgap for the next year or two. I really like Barney but we'll almost certainly see his best years when the Cubs aren't close to contention. He'll get expensive just as his skills begin to decline.

  • Yea John I meant him. I'm not sure it's that much of unfair trade. Maybe the Cubs can throw something else in, but Richards hasn't really lit it up in the majors and the Angels have lots of pitching prospects. Plus, Marmol has been pretty good as of late...he maybe worth a flier for them. Honestly, I haven't been impressed with Russell lately and don't see him long-term with the club. I like some of our other lefty reliever prospects. Call me crazy, but I'd even do Marmol and Russell for Richardson and a player to be named (low-level, mid-grade prospect of the Cubs choice...like a range).

  • Nevermind...Russell probably wouldn't clear waivers. I need to layoff the day-dreaming sometimes ;)

  • In reply to apalifer:

    Ha ;) Looks like the only guys we can deal are guys who nobody wants to take on waivers, so we probably shouldn't expect too much in return.

    I know Marmol has done well, but he's still not a great reliever and will be making close to 10M. The Cubs will have to pare that down a lot and they probably still won't get a whole lot.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    If they can Garrett Richards from the Angels, then they should send Marmol and pay 80% of his salary and get it done. If Theo were able to do this, down the line, we may look at this trade that turned the franchise around.

    Yes, I am very high on Garrett Richards. He has shown some real flashes and some mound moxy in his limited action.

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    Barney is a good bench player on a contending team. He's fine as a starter on a non-contending team.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    I'd agree, but I think he can start on a contending team because of his defense, especially a team with good offense already. You can do worse (and many contending teams have) then a 2+ WAR gold glove candidate at 2B.

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    Off topic.. But just read on MLB trade rumors Swisher is seeking 100 mill plus!!!! I cant believe how ridiculous the MLB market is getting.. Unreal

  • In reply to Colman Conneely:

    Good luck with that one, Nick.

  • im not sure if it has been discussed, but is it possible that barney could be an extension candidate. it wouldnt be a big extension considering his age/skills, but theres many positives to locking him up. he gets longterm security, which is certainly not a definite for a guy like barney. the extension would probably be for 4 years and with an option for a 5th. he's arbitration eligible after next season, so that buys out his arbitration years. a contract of 4 years/10-12mil with an option to make it 5/15-17. sounds pretty reasonable to me.

    barney is a great clubhouse guy, he seems like the type of guy who always hustles and makes an effort to get better everyday. hes come back better each season and works on parts of his game that he knows he need to improve during the offseason. even if we dont want him longterm, im pretty sure someone will want him in a trade, and the contract could be a bargain.

  • In reply to jshmoran:

    I think that could come up after next season if they decide he's a core piece.

  • Can I pick a choice in which I split the difference? Obviously, Barney's an above-average player at second base. If the Cubs can get an upgrade for some sort of reasonable cost or have one come from within, then he becomes a top-flight bench guy.

    Obviously, he's having a season that could take the NL Gold Glove away from Brandon Phillips, one of his defensive mentors. However, he could also thrive in a super-utility role. Barney looks solid on defense at short, could likely more than hold his own at third, and probably scoot to the outfield without much issue.

  • In reply to Jim Weihofen:

    Barney's a baseball rat, I don't doubt he can play every position competently. I believe he's even the emergency catcher, if I'm not mistaken. The question is with cost. If he's still a full-time starter before arb rolls around, he becomes pretty expensive, especially as a reserve.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    With Randy Wells gone, Barney is the 3rd catcher, as he played it a bit in high school.

    I really don't see him ever making more than $4-5 million a year. Assuming the Cubs are competitive by then, it's not unreasonable.

  • Barney has earned my admiration for going from a marginal prospect unlikely to have much of a MLB career, to a marginal MLB starter, to a decent MLB starter--all in the space of two years. Because of his ability to improve and play above his perceived ceiling, it won't surprise me if he continues to make improvements to his game in a way that few players do (for example, like the way Ozzie Smith improved his offense in his late twenties after "proving" he was a bad offensive player).

    Nonetheless, guys like Torreyes and Amaya have the chance to be special players, and I wouldn't let Barney block them if they tear up the high minors. Amaya in particular looks like he may have a shot to be a Biggio-type player at 2B.

    As far as Watkins is concerned, I'm really not sold on him being above average defensively...at least not yet. This is his first pro season in which he has posted anything resembling a respectable PCT at any infield position, and I suspect that the reason he sees so much OF time is because he isn't a great defender at 2B, and because his bat is okay but not stellar. In other words, they're hedging bets with him because he's likely to be a utility guy and he has issues defensively in the infield. Watkins is the kind of guy who could be okay if he pans out, as mabye a Mickey Morandini type, but he's not the kind of guy you would move Barney to make room for, IMO.

  • In reply to SVAZCUB:

    I agree that you don't clear room for guys like Watkins, but if they think he can provide something reasonably close to Barney's production, then it allows the Cubs to sell on Barney and pick up a piece or two. It becomes more of a case of would you rather have Barney at 2B or Watkins at 2B with a prospect or two to add to the minors. If Watkins can be anything close to Barney, I think you choose the latter.

  • Actually, a guy I wonder about is Saunders. At this point, what he has done has to be considered more than just a guy on a hot streak. He's 22 and could move pretty quickly through the system. Because he was a Div II guy, it seems possible that he could be a special guy who just slipped because he was hard to evaluate or because scouts felt that if a guy like that was serious about baseball, he would go to a "real" program. I'm intrigued. He's hitting for average and power and stealing bases and could be a real late round steal. Curious about his defense.

  • In reply to SVAZCUB:

    The Cubs are certainly good at finding infielders who are good enough to be MLB'ers...Barney, Theriot, etc. I think Saunders is more cut along that mold than a star. He has a good approach, puts the ball in play, decent athleticism. In my opinion he's a utility guy, especially given the versatility he's shown already, but I've only seen him play twice so I could be wrong.

  • I really like Barney. I admire him for the way he learned to excel while playing a new position. Maybe he can spent a like amount of effort next year on his hitting. He did hit well at Iowa.

    Besides, Darwin Barney always makes me think of Harry Caray, and the fun he used to have with players' names. I can see him figuring out that Barney's name works out to New Brain Yard, or Bawdy Rear Inn or Bra Day Winner as anagrams.

  • In reply to SFToby:

    Ha! I'm a sucker for word play :)

    Hard not to like Barney, but the one thing we are learning is that the Cubs are no longer afraid to move popular players if they think it will make them better.

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    I know this has been stated already, but it's not more complicated then this.

    Barney is a perfect player for a team that has above average offensive players at all/most the corners spots and you can live w high OBP/high IQ/defensive wizard.

    For this Cubs team, we are below average offensively at 3b/RF this year for sure and most likely this year unless of course they spend some money. If Soriano or Dejesus is moved or Brett Jackson is handed CF, we would below avg in LF/CF as well.

    I admire Barney for what hes done for us and what hes become, but we need him to improve his offense or we must upgrade the position. This team is looking very weak offensively and nothing can hurt young pitchers confidence and progress then believing if they make 1-2 mistakes a game, they lose.

    Darwin Barney is perfect for a team like the Tigers who get enough offense from other positions. Look at the Whitesox, they are getting near the bottom of the MLB in offense from there SS/2B position but are still competitive because they hit a lot a homeruns, pitch, and most importantly get above league average offense from the corner spots.

  • Barney is a solid player and doesn't have any competition for the 2b spot for at least a couple more years, if then. Sure, Lake and Watkins have potential, but they've got a ways to go before they could even be considered as replacements for Barney. Baez could be moved over to 2b, but he could also be moved to 3b, or even the outfield. As Yoda once said, "Cloudy the future is." As with most every player, Barney is the starter until someone can prove to be better.

    On a side note, Barney has not broken Sandberg's other record yet. He's broken the record for errorless games in 1 season, but Sandberg went 123 games over 2 seasons.

  • In reply to sdcoddi:

    Thanks for the side note!

    Agreed that Barney is your guy until someone is better, the question for me is will that be in the next year or two, or will they hold on to him at least until he becomes a FA?

    Obviously we can't know right now, but it's one of the more interesting developments to watch, imo.

  • I think they will eventually trade him for a nice package simply because there was buzz about Barney even before this errorless streak. I always watch to the other team's TV broadcast (if you want to really learn about your team, you gotta) and opposing team's announcers consistently gush about Barney. So part of me hopes they do trade him, because they're likely to get a good return. But part of me hopes they don't, because of the calming influence he has on Castro, his captain of the infield vibe, and all those other intangibles that have contributed to him being on winning teams wherever he's played.

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