When Theo Epstein took over the Cubs little more than a year ago, he made it clear from the outset that 2012 was going to be a stepping stone year as the new front office nails down potential building blocks for the future.
Darwin Barney emerged as a cornerstone piece, parlaying a tremendous defensive season into an NL Gold Glove Award and beating out Brandon Phillips -- who took home three of the last four awards -- in the process.
"Being in only my second full year, it wasn't one of my aspirations to be a Gold Glover," Barney said Wednesday evening on Chicago Tribune Live. "Obviously that's what you're working toward individually, but we had some different team goals this year for sure -- getting better and trying to put ourselves in a good position for the future."
When asked about Phillips, Barney stayed diplomatic and flashed the qualities that have made him a valued member of the clubhouse the past two seasons.
But he opened up a bit more when asked about the future of the Cubs.
"You can look at it a couple ways," Barney said. "I try to not be the GM. I just worry about myself and my job, especially in the offseason. I trust in Theo, Jed Hoyer and those guys and what they're going to bring in.
"I know there's definitely holes to fill. If I were to try to point out a hole, it would be saying something negative on one of my former teammates. That's not my place to do that."
Some of the holes for the Cubs include third base and starting pitching, as well as an outfielder while Brett Jackson gets some more seasoning down in the minors.
The Cubs have three-fourths of their infield set with shortstop Starlin Castro, first baseman Anthony Rizzo and Barney, who turns 27 next week.
"We're happy with some of the core guys we've got. I'm really hoping I'm part of that," Barney said. "We're all going to continue to try to get better and turn this organization around in the near future."
2012 was a banner year for teams jumping from cellar-dwellers to contenders. The Oakland Athletics and Baltimore Orioles came out of nowhere to overtake the powerhouse Texas Rangers (in the division and Wild Card game, respectively) and advance to the Division Series.
Everything would have to break completely right for a Cubs squad coming off a 107-loss season, but Barney isn't counting things out heading into the winter.
"Hopefully it can happen next year," Barney. "Hopefully we can put some pressure on upper management to make moves in the opposite direction, so we don't have to say goodbye to all of our friends after the trade deadline.
"You just never know what a season is going to turn into, but you have a lot of control into what it starts out as. So we're going to work for that."