SAN DIEGO — While everyone expects the Cubs to trade away 40 percent of their rotation again this summer, getting Darwin Barney could be an under-the-radar move that helps a contending team.
Barney must have seen the writing on the wall with Javier Baez eventually having to move off shortstop, though the top prospect has struggled at Triple-A Iowa, cutting off that discussion for now. Still, Barney has become a part-timer, making only 23 starts at second base, leaving his future up in the air.
“He’s still a valuable player,” Cubs manager Rick Renteria said before Saturday’s 3-2 win over the San Diego Padres at Petco Park. “Nobody’s discounting his value.”
The Cubs began phasing out their Gold Glove second baseman in spring training, picking up Emilio Bonifacio, the utility guy/leadoff hitter who caught fire. There are only so many at-bats for third baseman Mike Olt and infielder Luis Valbuena.
“We’ve been using him probably not as much as any position player would want to be used,” Renteria said. “But we’re trying to get him in there in different situations. We’ve been trying to double switch, defending with him. That’s a process, too, of acclimating.
“He’s got the mindset. He wants to do it. He wants to be good at it (and) possibly play in other positions. He’s working at it. He’s open to it, and I think that brings a tremendous value to him. It’s not easy for players to come off the bench.”
A stronger American League lineup might give cover to someone who’s hitting .181. A team looking for help up the middle could use Barney, a homegrown player who’s popular in the clubhouse and brings intangibles as well as elite defensive skills. He's gone 9-for-31 (.290) with four runs, a homer and four RBIs in his last nine games.
“He’s played second base on an everyday basis in Chicago,” Renteria said. “He’s obviously a Gold Glover. As time goes on, we’ll all come to a conclusion as to how he will continue to be used. He’s involved in conversations. It’s not like this is just a blind (situation) with no conversations going on with the young man. He deserves that, and we’ve had plenty. And he’s really been very, very good (about it).”