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Darwin Barney Rumors
Though regarded as a plus (and, at times, elite) defender, Barney has struggled to deliver value from the offensive side. After averaging a barely serviceable .265/.306/.354 slash over 2011-12, Barney has slipped to a combined .214/.266/.311 line since the start of 2013. He has also contributed on the basepaths, but certainly was not doing enough to merit a starting role; indeed, he has graded out as barely above replacement level over the past two seasons.
The move’s immediate purpose is to clear roster space for the activation of Emilio Bonifacio. In the grand scheme of things, however, it represents yet another step towards the infusion of the Cubs’ top prospects into the MLB roster. Since being promoted when Barney went on paternity leave, Arismendy Alcantara has taken the lion’s share of time at second (though he’s playing center field tonight), with fellow top youngster Javier Baez reportedly also moving to that spot at Triple-A in recent days.
The Cubs begin a series at Fenway Park tonight, getting back in action following a rare Sunday off-day. The club played a doubleheader on Saturday in order to keep Sunday free for Chicago’s Pride Parade, which could’ve created a traffic jam in the Wrigleyville area had the Cubs been playing as originally scheduled. MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat takes a look at the history of Sunday baseball, and passes along the historical note that the Cubs were off on a Sunday for the first time since 1932.
Here’s the latest from the north side of Chicago…
- Theo Epstein denied rumors that he will leave the Cubs after his contract expires following the 2016 season, he tells Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune. While some speculate that Epstein has been upset at the lack of Major League resources he’s been given by the Cubs, he “insists he will be here as long as the Cubs want him,” Sullivan writes.
- Two scouts aren’t impressed by Darwin Barney‘s bat, telling Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune that while Barney is a good fielder, “if he can’t hit in the National League, what makes anyone think he can hit in the American League?” Barney has only slashed .198/.243/.284 in 174 PA this season and could be non-tendered if he can’t improve at the plate. Gonzales feels Barney’s time with the Cubs is probably nearing an end, though it could come via a trade if he can hit enough to get a look from another team.
- Also from Gonzales’ reader mailbag piece, he expects the Cubs “to wait as long as possible” for the best offer before trading Jeff Samardzija or Jason Hammel. He thinks Samardzija might even not be moved until the offseason if necessary, though this would lessen this trade value as a new team would only have him under contract for the 2015 season.
- The Cubs haven’t gotten much production out of their veteran outfielders, and Gonzales expects maybe one (at most) of Nate Schierholtz, Justin Ruggiano, Ryan Sweeney, Chris Coghlan or Ryan Kalish to be back next season and Chicago will look for more veteran upgrades. Since Sweeney is owed $2MM for 2015 and the others are all on one-year or minor league contracts, I’d suspect Sweeney is the favorite to return, though $2MM isn’t so large an amount that the Cubs couldn’t eat it if necessary.
Cubs executive Jason McLeod, who’s also a candidate for the Padres’ open GM job, discusses drafting and player development in a wide-ranging interview with Fangraphs’ David Laurila that also addresses McLeod’s past in the Red Sox organization. McLeod says that one of the biggest challenges in drafting is weighing riskier high-school players against college players who are closer to being finished products. “It was ‘I can’t pass on this toolsy high school upside guy? The risk is big – it’s huge – but how can I pass? If I do, people will say I was too conservative, that I was too scared to make that pick because of the potential downside,‘” McLeod says, saying that he’s still haunted by the Red Sox’ decision to pass on high-schooler Chase Headley in the 2005 draft. Here are more notes out of Chicago.
- The Cubs are open to keeping players like Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel if they have a dramatic (and unlikely) season turnaround, Bruce Miles of the Daily Herald writes. “I said the other day, if we want to win 15 in a row, we’d definitely be open to it,” says Theo Epstein. “Sometimes it’s more important why you’re playing well than if you’re playing well.”
- With Samardzija and Hammel likely to be dealt in the near future, the Cubs will likely continue to depend on lefty Travis Wood, Brian Sandalow of the Chicago Sun-Times writes. Wood, who now has a 4.52 ERA with 7.2 K/9 and 3.7 BB/9 in 95 2/3 innings in 2013, suddenly looks like a part of the Cubs’ future, despite arriving in a relatively minor deal in 2011.
- Infielder Darwin Barney hasn’t hit much lately, so his future is murky, but ESPN Chicago’s Jesse Rogers writes that Barney wants to stay in Chicago. “We all hope that our future is here,” says Barney. “We want to be here when things turn around. I think we can see that things slowly are.” Barney has hit .205/.256/.295 in 168 plate appearances this season.
Astros outfielder George Springer hit two home runs in tonight’s contest against the Mariners, giving him six for the season. After beginning big-league career with a slow start, Springer is now hitting .250/.333/.438 and is looking very much like the power hitter the Astros likely thought they had at the start of the season. Springer made his debut April 16, but all of his six home runs have come since May 8. Here are more notes from around the big leagues.
- Catcher Nick Hundley, who the Orioles recently acquired from the Padres, could wind up being a big-league manager, Corey Brock of MLB.com writes. Perhaps unsurprisingly, many managers are former catchers. “Of all the guys that come through that you touch as players, there’s a few guys that you jot down as future staff guys. Managers, coaches, instructors, announcers, whatever,” says current Padres manager Bud Black. “Nick tracks toward the field as a future manager or coach.” Brock points out that Nick’s father Tim is an assistant football coach at UNLV.
- Cubs infielder Darwin Barney has hit badly enough (.175/.250/.250 in 89 plate appearances this season) that he’s approaching a “career crossroads,” Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times writes. Barney is still a valuable defensive player, but his hitting might end up getting him traded or moved into more of a straightforward utility infielder role. Barney has played exclusively at second base this season.
Tigers executive Scott Reid is scouting Cubs outfielder Nate Schierholtz and infielder Darwin Barney, Bruce Levine of CBS Chicago reports. The Cubs would be looking for pitching in return. The Tigers have lost outfielder Andy Dirks and shortstop Jose Iglesias to serious injuries. Dirks was slated to form the left-handed side of a left-field platoon with Rajai Davis. The left-handed Scherholtz would seem to fit the bill as his replacement, even though he has mostly played right field in recent years.
Barney has played shortstop only sparingly since 2010, and the Tigers have no real need at second base, with Ian Kinsler in tow. Barney is a strong defensive second baseman, however, and he has played a bit of shortstop this spring with Starlin Castro dealing with a hamstring injury. Barney recently told the Chicago Tribune's Mark Gonzales that he would be fine playing shortstop. "Shortstop is my natural position," he said. "I feel very comfortable over there. The past three years at second base I've still taken balls at short almost every day as part of my workout to stretch my arm out. So I don't look at it as a transition." Barney hit poorly in 2013, with a line of .208/.266/.303 in 555 plate appearances, but he produced enough value with his defense to be above replacement level.
Barney, a client of CAA Sports' Joe Urbon, filed for a $2.8MM salary last month, with the Cubs countering at $1.8MM. The $2.3MM settled upon by the two sides is the midpoint between those two figures and is just slightly north of the $2.1MM salary projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz.
Barney further established himself as an elite defensive second baseman in his age-27 season last year, posting a +15.5 UZR/150 and a +11 mark per The Fielding Bible's Defensive Runs Saved metric. However, his stellar glove is the more or less the sole source of his value to the team. Barney has batted .232/.283/.330 over the past two seasons with the Cubs, including a .208/.266/.303 line in 2013. He did walk at a career-high clip (6.5 percent) in addition to tying his career-best in homers (seven) and providing some value on the basepaths last season.
With Barney's case resolved, the Cubs' lone candidate for a hearing is ace Jeff Samardzija, as shown in MLBTR's Arbitration Tracker. Jesse Rogers of ESPN Chicago wrote last week that it wouldn't be a surprise to see the two sides head to a hearing.
While the Yankees have spent big to bring Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran into the fold, the club continues to carry major holes in its infield and rotation, Fox Sports' Jon Paul Morosi writes. That the Yankees will need to acquire an impact free-agent starter to contend is a consequence of their failure to develop their own superstars, he says. Morosi ranks the Bombers' rotation as the AL East's third-best as things currently stand. Here's more out of the division:
- Alex Rodriguez says he's confident he'll be manning third base for the Yankees next season, ESPN reports. "I'm preparing as always, working hard," Rodriguez told reporters in Spanish. The Bombers would be off the hook for A-Rod's $25MM salary in 2014 if his suspension is upheld, but the 37-year-old still has impact potential. If he's allowed to play, Rodriguez will relieve GM Brian Cashman of the need to find a third baseman in a free agent market that just saw the Dodgers give two years and $15MM to Juan Uribe.
- The Yankees' interest in Cubs second baseman Darwin Barney could pick up following the Royals' four-year, $30.25MM deal with Omar Infante, Bruce Levine of 670thescore.com tweets. Levine says the two teams have previously discussed Barney, who's considered a strong defender but hit just .208/.266/.303 in 2013.
- Red Sox catcher Ryan Lavarnway is aware of talks to eliminate home-plate collisions, but he'd prefer the rule to remain as it is, Tim Healey writes for MLB.com. "I've talked to a few of the other catchers, and I think that in general we all want to see [the rule] the way it is," Lavarnway said. "We think that [home-plate collisions are] a part of the game."
- The A.J. Pierzynski signing appears to call Lavarnway's role with the 2014 Red Sox into question, Healey says. Pierzynski and David Ross are expected to handle Boston's catching duties next season.
- The Orioles will struggle to keep Rule 5 draft selection Michael Almanzar on the 25-man roster for the entirety of 2014, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com reports. Like fellow Oriole Danny Valencia, Almanzar is limited to the infield corners and hits right handed. Almanzar has a .250/.302/.373 line in six minor-league seasons.
The Dodgers have a thrown a wrench into the free agent outfield market by listening to trade offers for Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, and Carl Crawford, writes Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio in an Insider post (subscription required). Scott Boras is also a complicating factor, according to Bowden, because he represents the two top free agent outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury and Shin-Soo Choo (#2 and #3, respectively, on MLBTR's 2014 Top 50 Free Agents list). Bowden theorizes the other top-tier free agent outfielders may wait to sign in order to see how Boras sets the market for Ellsbury and Choo. In today's news and notes from the National League:
- Rockies owner Dick Monfort provided Troy E. Renck of the Denver Post with a detailed line-by-line budget for his franchise. Monfort explains how revenue from the new national TV contract is absorbed by payments on the club's MLB credit line, player raises, and projected revenue losses for not having home dates with the Yankees and Red Sox. Monfort estimates being able to reinvest only $4-5MM of the new TV money into the on-the-field product.
- Renck, via Sulia, agrees with the assessment of MLBTR's Tim Dierkes that the Ricky Nolasco contract resembles Edwin Jackson's. Renck believes the Rockies would have been paralyzed under their self-imposed budget constraints had they signed Nolasco, so their best option for a rotation upgrade is through a trade.
- The Mets will have interest in catcher Tyler Flowers, if he is non-tendered by the White Sox, tweets the New York Post's Mike Puma. Mets executives have liked Flowers in the past and see him as a potential backup to Travis d'Arnaud. Flowers, however, told Scott Merkin of MLB.com "(t)here have been a couple of conversations" with the White Sox about reaching an agreement to avoid arbitration. "I put it at 51-49 in favor of staying because of the contractual conversation we've had before," Flowers said. "They've reached out to me to try to see where each other is at. If they didn't care at all, they would have done nothing and non-tendered me."
- It would be a surprise if the Diamondbacks non-tender left-handed reliever Joe Thatcher because free agent bullpen arms aren't cheap, tweets Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca. Thatcher struggled after Arizona acquired him from San Diego in the Ian Kennedy trade to the tune of a 6.75 ERA, 6.8 K/9, 5.8 BB/9, and 11.6 H/9 in 9 1/3 innings (22 appearances).
- The Cubs will likely tender second baseman Darwin Barney, despite a career-worst season at the plate (.208/.266/.303 in 501 plate appearances), because the only realistic in-house replacement is Luis Valbuena, reasons MLB.com's Carrie Muskat. MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projects a $2.1MM arbitration salary for Barney and $1.5MM for Valbuena, who is playing second base in the Venezuelan Winter League.
- The Cardinals made the right move in signing Jhonny Peralta because they were able to upgrade a position of need while retaining their prized young arms, opines MLB.com's Richard Justice.
Earlier today, Cubs General Manager Jed Hoyer, manager Dale Sveum, and president of baseball operations Theo Epstein all spoke with the Chicago media. Here's a look at some highlights with all links going to Twitter..
- Sveum told reporters, including Carrie Muskat of MLB.com, that the club expects to finalize a deal with Carlos Villanueva today. The hang up, he said, was over clearing a roster spot for the right-hander.
- However, Bruce Miles of ESPNChicago.com hears that the deal won't be inked today.
- The deal that would have sent Dan Haren to the Cubs for Carlos Marmol was never a completed deal and Hoyer doesn't understand why the word "botched" was used to describe it, Miles tweets. The trade, which was discussed before the Angels' deadline to exercise Haren's option, was initally reported to be agreed upon but was never finalized.
- Hoyer said that second baseman Darwin Barney is a part of their long term plans "for sure", tweets Jesse Rogers of ESPNChicago.com. The Tigers inquired on the youngster last summer.
- Epstein said that if the club sees a can't miss position player available at the No. 2 spot in the draft, they may go that route and stockpile pitching later, tweets Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune.
Here's the latest from around the league, courtesy of ESPN's Jim Bowden…
- The Padres have fielded offers for both Huston Street and Carlos Quentin, but they've yet to seriously debate any of them internally.
- The Tigers are seeking a second base upgrade and would like to acquire Darwin Barney from the Cubs for a mid-level prospect.
- The Indians are looking all over to acquire an outfield bat, but they are unable to take back a significant contract and are unwilling to move their best prospects.
- Meanwhile, the Royals are trying to convince the Indians or Reds to take Jeff Francoeur so they can promote Wil Myers from Triple-A.
- The Pirates are aggressively trying to land a middle of the order bat while the Orioles are seeking starting pitching and a third base upgrade.
- There have been rumors of a Mike Morse for B.J. Upton trade, according to Bowden. The Nationals are also looking to add a starter with Stephen Strasburg's innings limit approaching.
- The Giants have no plans of making a deal similar to the one they made last year, when they traded Zack Wheeler for a rental (Carlos Beltran). They are looking for a bat or two, however.
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