Showing posts with label Darwin Barney. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Darwin Barney. Show all posts

Friday, May 9, 2014

It's time for the Cubs to get rid of Darwin Barney

Outside of shortstop Starlin Castro and first baseman Anthony Rizzo, the Cubs have gone with a musical chairs approach to their infield. Between second and third base they've rotated Luis Valbuena (20 starts), Emilio Bonifacio (12), Mike Olt (16) and Darwin Barney (16).

Bonifacio has also gotten time in the outfield, but this is a pretty even job-sharing arrangement. That makes some sense in that the Cubs have a lot of guys they're trying to sort out, even if not for their direct benefit, then to give scouts from other teams a look-see at players so they can be peddled for something interesting in a trade.

Olt is a former top prospect not far from the form that made him one, so getting his career back on track would be huge. Valbuena and Bonifacio are playing like credible stopgaps or bench options should a better team come calling for one of them. Maybe the Cubs will like Bonifacio enough to hammer out an affordable contract extension.

Barney is hitting like one of the worst hitters in all of baseball. Which he is outside of pitchers and backup catchers. That's not just his meager 63 plate appearances this year (.127/.226/.181, so emphasis on meager). That's been his career in the majors (.242/.241/.331). That's really what his body of work in the minors would have suggested (.288/.337/.378).

There's his glove, which is excellent at second base and would probably play well at short or third. But as good as it is, it won't carry him as a starter at any position, and you'd really rather he never have to hit, making him a second-best utility infield option on a decent bench. That means he's not likely to bring the Cubs back much value in trade.

After making $2.3 million this season, I think it's also safe to say that if he's not sent to another team, the Cubs won't be tendering him a contract and taking him to arbitration for next season.

Barney simply has no value to the Cubs right now, and keeping him around is eating into something the team has right now that's very valuable, and that's playing time for those other guys who might play their way into the long-term picture, or at least boost their short-term value.

Even as a "rebuilding" team, the Cubs have other, better options. They should go with them.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Be a smart fan: Don't draw grand conclusions from spring results

I was looking at some of the baseball stories on the Chicago Tribune website this morning when I took note of a Cubs-related web poll. It read: Barney at SS over Baez, right move?
Starlin Castro

I clicked on the poll and voted "yes," because that is the right answer. Not surprisingly, only 24 percent of the poll's 607 respondents agreed with me. That means 76 percent of the people who answered this poll are full of beans, and here's why:

OK, the Cubs' regular shortstop, Starlin Castro, is out 7-10 days right now with a hamstring injury. It's not believed to be serious, and there's every reason to believe Castro will be at shortstop when the North Siders open the season March 31 in Pittsburgh. But, hypothetically, let's say Castro isn't ready. You know who the likely Cubs starter at shortstop would be under than scenario? Darwin Barney. And that's why manager Rick Renteria is going to give him some playing time at that spot while Castro is out.

I'm sorry, but this is an obvious move. It's not even a matter of debate.

However, it's being debated because the moron contingent in Chicago mistakenly believes highly regarded prospect Javier Baez is ready for the major leagues. Baez is 4 for 9 with a home run so far this spring. Those nine ABs are enough for the meathead division of the Cubs fan base to be sold on the idea that Baez should be the team's starting shortstop -- even over Castro, according to some.

Not to be a wet blanket, but that ain't happening. Baez has only played 54 games in his life above the Class-A level. He isn't ready for the bigs. And, yes, I know he hit a combined 37 home runs between High-A and Double-A ball last season.

But you know what else is true? Baez also made 44 errors in 123 games at shortstop last year. 44 errors! I'm going to go out on a limb here and say his defensive game could use a little more refinement before he's ready to play a middle infield spot in the major leagues every day.

Baez also struck out 147 times last year against that lower-level pitching. I haven't seen enough of the kid yet to comment on his swing, but that strikeout total suggests there is still some refinement needed in his offensive game, too.

Cubs brass no doubt knows this, and I believe they will wisely ignore the din and send Baez down to the minors for the start of the regular season.

All the talk in Cubs camp is about prospects right now, but Renteria has 162 major league games to manage this year. He has to have his players prepared for all possible scenarios. Unlike Baez, Barney is going to be on the 25-man roster when camp breaks, and Renteria knows he needs Barney to be ready to play shortstop in a pinch. It's a point that should be painfully obvious to anyone with a brain.

Nine good at-bats from Baez isn't going to change the Cubs' plan for this prized 21-year-old prospect, nor should it.

South Side fans not immune from stupidity, either.

A co-worker of mine suggested yesterday the White Sox sign free-agent pitcher Ervin Santana because "Felipe Paulino is struggling right now."

No lie. And I think he might have been serious.

First off, Santana is a bad fit for the Sox, but that's another argument and beside the point for this discussion.

Everyone needs to remember Paulino missed almost the entire 2013 season after arm surgery. The sum total of his year was 27.2 rehab innings in the minor leagues. He's barely pitched over the last 18 months, so nobody should be surprised he gave up four runs and eight hits over 1.2 innings in his first spring training start.

My reaction to those results: So what?

Here's what I care about: Paulino's fastball was sitting between 92 and 94 mph, right where it should be. He threw 31 of 47 pitches for strikes, a good ball-to-strike ratio, and he felt good physically after the outing.

That's all that counts right now. We'll worry about results later.

Some other instructive reading

Any fan worried about spring training numbers should read this piece from Jim Margalus over at South Side Sox.

Jim notes the 2013 Sox put up a robust .299/.358/.494 slash line during spring training. It was hardly a foreshadowing of the regular season, when the Sox posted a .249/.302/.378 line on their way to scoring the fewest runs in the American League.

The article shows several examples of individual players whose spring training numbers lied, but perhaps the most telling was infielder Jeff Keppinger's line.

In spring ball last year, Keppinger looked like the answer to the Sox' third base woes when he put up a solid .412/.483/.510 line in 58 plate appearances. Too bad his regular season totals were .253/.283/.317 in 451 plate appearances.

The moral of the story is this: Nothing that's happening now means much in the grand scheme of things. Don't fall in the trap of drawing grand conclusions from spring results.

Smart fans are the ones who stay away from this kind of nonsense.