David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
Last week I wrote about the possible shake up within the Cubs infield over the next few years. Starlin Castro was my focus last week. This week I’m taking a look at Darwin Barney‘s case. How much is stellar defense worth?
There were many, many things wrong with the 2013 Cubs. However, defense on the right side of the infield was not one of those things. Darwin Barney and Anthony Rizzo were both finalists for the Rawlings Gold Glove Award® but came up short. Barney was last years recipient, and in my mind should have had his 2nd consecutive. The numbers were there again, as statistically he was the best at the second base position. I think that Barney was a victim of circumstance. The Cubs just weren’t very good, and Brandon Phillips flash stuck in the mind of the voters.
So moving to 2014, and a lot of upcoming talent in the middle infield positions as well as third base, what about Barney?
I personally am a Darwin Barney fan. I think his defense is under appreciated at times because of his hitting. I’ve never expected him to fill up the stat sheet at the plate, but up until this year he had been pretty consistent at the plate. You knew what you’d get. But this down year on a offensively challenged team has left many looking for help at the second base bag. I say not yet, and here’s why.
This was only his third full season of everyday second base. Clearly as previously stated, his defense was as good as can be. His bat, like many of the Cubs, was horrendous. He was down in almost all offensive categories. OBP, SLG %, OPS, and of course his average was well below his career average. But Barney actually had a better year with walks, and his strikeout total was right in line with his career totals. Castro had a down year, two now. But we didn’t cast him off..well, some did. But I see no reason not to let Barney have the opportunity for a bounce back 2014.
The Cubs don’t want to spend money, so don’t. Let Darwin have the chance to remedy himself at the plate. No one on this years team hit well, so there’s no point to blaming Barney solely. Unless something jarring happens in the spring, I see Barney opening up the season at second again. But finding playing time for Baez, and possibly Bryant if they make their way to the roster next year will put Barney squarely on the hot seat.
Having a consistent glove in the field that makes plays day in, day out is worth the chance at a redeeming season. If he can return to a .270/40 RBI/.350 SLG that would be a consistent enough line for me. He played as well as Phillips at second base for a fraction of the cost, and has been in the league half as long. And comparatively speaking, outside of power which Phillips clearly has more, numbers at the plate through the first part of their careers are similar.
This isn’t saying Barney will be a hitter like Phillips. But he’s got the glove, let’s develop the stick and see what he can do.