Cubs: What's next for Darwin Barney?

Cubs: What's next for Darwin Barney?
June 28, 2014, 7:45 pm
Tony Andracki

Where does Darwin Barney fit on this Cubs roster?

After some haziness surrounding the veteran entering the season, the Cubs still haven't answered the Barney question.

The 28-year-old second baseman won a Gold Glove in 2012 and turned in 4.6 WAR by Baseball Reference's standard, posting a .254 average and .653 OPS.

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But since then, Barney has hit just .206 in 663 at-bats and has a -0.6 WAR. His defense is still there, but his bat has brought him down to below replacement-level.

The Cubs got a lift when they acquired Emilio Bonifacio this spring, injecting a spark at the top of the lineup while splitting time at second and center field. Bonifacio's emergence and Luis Valbuena's productivity has relegated Barney to a bench role for much of the season, but Barney has seen an uptick in playing time since Bonifacio landed on the DL June 12 with an oblique injury.

"We've had conversations and he's dealt with [the lack of playing time] quite well," Cubs manager Rick Renteria said. "He's continued to prepare himself daily to be ready to play the game and I think he's contributed in many ways.

"Even the days he's not playing, he's contributed by helping the other guys prepare for ballgames, having conversations in the dugout, things of that nature. He's been a good sport.

"Baseball's that way. Before you know it, you're back in the lineup. That's just the game. That's just the way it is."

Barney has a hit in nine of his 14 starts since Bonifacio went down, but his average has still dipped below .200 on the season.

On a team like the Cubs that struggles to score runs, Barney's offensive issues are magnified. He'd be better served hitting in a lineup like the Detroit Tigers, where he would be protected by stars like Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez and could focus more on playing great defense.

With the MLB trade deadline roughly a month away, Barney's name could start popping up more and more as contenders look to add a veteran piece. Barney's intangibles give him a boost as a good clubhouse guy with a strong work ethic.

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"We know he's a former Gold Glover," Renteria said. "We know that he carries himself defensively very well. We've actually been really happy with the way he's been putting together at-bats. ... He's a pro."

Even if he's not dealt by the deadline, Barney's playing time will be challenged when Bonifacio returns to health and the kids continue to knock at the door from the minor leagues.

While he started off slow in Triple-A Iowa, Javier Baez has turned it on of late and could move to second base if he earns a call-up later this year.

Baez's teammate with Iowa, Arismendy Alcantara, has exploded at the plate recently and entered play Saturday with an .890 OPS. He can play second, shortstop and outfield and appears likely to be promoted at some point this season.

So where does that all leave Barney? Only time will tell.