Dodgers, Austin Barnes avoid arbitration with 2-year, $4.3 million deal

Photo: Stacie Wheeler

The Dodgers (probably) finished up their offseason this past weekend, with Austin Barnes being the final loose end.

Not the greatest news for Keibert Ruiz, but with the DH coming in 2022 (most likely), there still might be room for him.

As for Barnes, the Dodgers leaned on him a bit during the 2020 postseason, as the pitching staff seemed to be a bit more comfortable with him than they were with Will Smith. The days of Barnes being a 3.5-win player are gone. Now, he’s one of the better backup catchers in the game.

Barnes hit .244/.353/.314 with a 94 wRC+. It was a step up over his previous two seasons (77 and 68 wRC+ in 2018 and ’19). He had a strong 2020 postseason, hitting .320/.393/.440, including the crucial base hit that knocked Blake Snell out of Game 6 of the World Series, which is a real thing that actually happened.

For the next two years, Barnes’ primary goal — besides being Clayton Kershaw‘s personal catcher — is to help Smith (and Ruiz) improve their game-calling and the intricate aspects of a catcher-pitcher relationship. Oh, and he and his wife will have their hands full after the birth of his son Royce on Friday.

The 2-year deal will take Barnes to free agency after the 2022 season, when he’ll be heading into his age-33 season. We’ll see if the Dodgers end up keeping him by then. A lot will depend on the progress of Smith and the development of Ruiz and Diego Cartaya — if one or both aren’t traded by then.

About Dustin Nosler

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Dustin Nosler began writing about the Dodgers in July 2009 at his blog, Feelin' Kinda Blue. He co-hosted a weekly podcast with Jared Massey called Dugout Blues. He was a contributor/editor at The Hardball Times and True Blue LA. He graduated from California State University, Sacramento, with his bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in digital media. While at CSUS, he worked for the student-run newspaper The State Hornet for three years, culminating with a 1-year term as editor-in-chief. He resides in Stockton, Calif.