Globe and Mail: Cubs To Move Barrett?

The Globe and Mail is Canada’s second-largest daily newspaper.  This little tidbit from sportswriter Jeff Blair may have escaped your attention:

"My sources are telling me that the Blue Jays and Cubs could figure in a deal after the All-Star break. The Cubs are going to dump infielder Todd Walker and might also look at moving Michael Barrett — whose omission from the NL All-Star team, even though it owes much to the justifiable presence of pitcher Carlos Zambrano as the Cubs representative, is one of the injustices of the All-Star rosters. Surprising, considering his knockdown of A.J. Pierzynski was universally cheered in most clubhouses. Barrett has his fans in the Blue Jays front office."

This is the first mention I’ve heard of Barrett as a trade candidate.  The 29 year-old is having a career-best season with the bat, hitting .305/.371/.502 in 213 ABs.  The Cubs acquired Barrett from Oakland (for whom he never actually played) for Damian Miller in December of 2003.  Barrett’s current deal leaves about $8 million due for 2006-07.  According to Baseball Prospectus, that’s very similar to his true value based on projections.  They have him worth $7.25 mil during that time period.

Given that the average NL catcher is hitting .266/.323/.403 this season, Barrett’s offense is quite an asset.  However, it’s still an open question as to whether his defense cancels out most of the value.  There aren’t a ton of great stats to evaluate a catcher’s work behind the plate.  One area in which Barrett is clearly deficient is throwing out baserunners.  His 20.6% success rate this year ranks 19th out of 22 qualified catchers.  Last year he was at 23%, and in ’04 it was 24%.  Barrett’s inability to throw out basestealers could mean as many as 60 outs that a Pudge Rodriguez would’ve recorded over the course of a season.

In a normal season Barrett will probably allow 5-10 passed balls, not terribly different from the average backstop.  But those are really the only two metrics I have.  Even John Dewan’s excellent Fielding Bible doesn’t tackle the issue of catcher defense.  Let’s face it: any critique of game-calling skills would be entirely anecdotal or subjective.  Players don’t openly criticize game-calling for the most part.  And I don’t buy into the catcher ERA concept at all.

Barrett has played over 100 games at third base back in his Expo days.  Considering the very weak free agent markets for third basemen and catchers, Barrett is an excellent pickup at an affordable price.  There’s even the possibility that his hitting improves further if he’s removed from the rigors of catching.  Some possible suitors include the Rockies, Dodgers, and Padres. 

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