Dodgers Acquire Darwin Barney, Because Defense

I heard a rumor that the Dodgers might go after Darwin Barney over the weekend, but gave it literally almost no thought whatsoever, because I was on vacation, and screw it, it’s just Darwin Barney. Then David Vassegh mentioned earlier today that the interest might be real, and now, apparently, it is: Barney is reportedly a Dodger, per the Internet.

The particulars, first. Barney turns 29 in November, and he’s been with the Cubs his entire career, having been a fourth-round pick in 2007. He came up in 2010, and was the Cubs’ primary second baseman for the next three seasons, eventually losing his job earlier this month when prospect Arismendy Alcantara came up. We haven’t heard what’s going back other than “a player to be named,” but since Barney was a DFA, don’t expect it to be anything we’ll lose sleep over. If I had to toss out a name completely independent of any thought whatsoever… I don’t know, let’s say Freddie Cabrera. Whatever, it really doesn’t matter.

There’s not a lot of question about why Barney exists, of course, and that’s because of his glove. He’s a fantastic second baseman, to the point that since 2011, he and Dustin Pedroia have been the two best fielders in the game at the position, and it hasn’t been particularly close.

He can even supposedly play a little bit of shortstop, though he hasn’t done so since 2012. Anyway, the fielding is great. It’s the offense that’s the problem. In his first full season, he hit .276/.313/.353, good for a 79 wRC+… and that’s been his peak. In 2012, that fell to 75. Last year, it was 51. This year, 58. 145 players have had at least 2,000 plate appearances since he arrived, and he is, without hyperbole, the absolute worst hitter of any of them.

If you’re wondering what Cubs fans think of his departure, well:

Barney is an elite defensive second baseman who simply can’t hit at all. If he’d hit at his 2012 level — .254/.299/.354, a 76 OPS+ — he’d have been able to keep a starting job due to his defense. That year, he produced a 4.6 bWAR season, but has been in negative WAR territory since due to his horrendous hitting over the last two years.

I’m happy for Barney, who by all accounts is a good guy and a good teammate. He’ll likely be a backup infielder with the Dodgers and now has a chance to go to the postseason.

At least he’s a good guy, I guess?

So the real question is, what does this mean for Barney’s role on the Dodgers? No, he’s not coming to take a starting job away from Dee Gordon, or even time from Justin Turner.  Barney is a righty bat who is at least mildly less terrible against lefties (90 wRC+ career) than he is against righties (60 wRC+), so maybe there’s some potential platoon opportunities there, though Gordon has been better against lefties. He’s basically the same hitter — no, really — as Miguel Rojas, which is to say, he’s not much of a hitter at all. Whether it’s worth the effort to upgrade over Rojas, as I presume that’s who heads down to Triple-A to make room, is pretty questionable.

Whether it’s worth it to have Rojas to call up the next time Hanley Ramirez gets injured and not Carlos Triunfel, who is just generally terrible at everything, does make sense enough, and while I suppose “but Erisbel Arruebarrena” makes sense, I also don’t mind him getting a few solid uninterrupted weeks of playing time before coming up in September. (What this does to Chone Figgins, on a seemingly endless rehab stint, I have no idea, but it shouldn’t impact Alex Guerrero, who will be recalled when he’s ready, not because he’s blocked by Barney.)

All in all, this is a pretty “meh” trade that will ultimately have no impact whatsoever. But hey: at least he’s still better than Dan Uggla… and maybe that’s the biggest benefit of all.

About Mike Petriello

Mike Petriello
Mike writes about lots of baseball in lots of places, and right now that place is MLB.com.