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Darwin Barney Rumors
WEDNESDAY: Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports (on Twitter) that the Dodgers will send right-handed pitcher Jonathan Martinez to the Cubs as the PTBNL. The 20-year-old was enjoying a strong season at Class A in the Midwest League, having pitched to a 3.47 ERA with 7.7 K/9 and 1.6 BB/9 in 106 innings. He did not rank among the Dodgers’ top 30 prospects, per Baseball America.
MONDAY, 5:43pm: MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat reports that the Dodgers will pay $500K of what is owed to Barney this season (Twitter link).
2:32pm: The Dodgers have bolstered their infield depth and their defense with the acquisition of Darwin Barney from the Cubs, both teams announced. Chicago will send Barney and cash considerations to Los Angeles in return for a player to be named later, according to releases from each team. It was reported earlier today that Barney, who was designated for assignment last week, was garnering trade interest.
The 28-year-old Barney hit just .230/.265/.328 in 217 plate appearances with the Cubs this season, but his bat has never been his calling card. Barney consistently rates as one of the best defensive second baseman in the Major Leagues, and this year was no different. His Ultimate Zone Rating per 150 games was +15.5, while Defensive Runs Saved pegged him at +7 runs in limited time. Per DRS, Barney has saved 46 runs over the past three seasons.
Dee Gordon has established himself as Los Angeles’ everyday second baseman this season, so it doesn’t seem likely that Barney will be seeing everyday at-bats with the Dodgers. However, his glove makes him a nice bench piece that the team can use to improve its defense late in games. Barney was drafted as a shortstop and spent more time at short than at the keystone in his minor league career. Despite a lack of experience at the position in recent years, Barney could be used as a replacement if the team wants to either replace the defensively challenged Hanley Ramirez or shift him over to third base late in games.
Barney is earning just $2.3MM this season and is controllable through 2016 as an arbitration eligible player. His bat makes him a non-tender candidate in the offseason, but he will only cost the Dodgers about $804K from here through season’s end.
Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune first reported that the two sides were nearing a trade (on Twitter), and Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish tweeted that it was a deal. Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times reported that the Cubs would receive a PTBNL in return (Twitter link).
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Expecting fireworks at the deadline from the Rays? History would dictate that it won’t happen, writes Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. If anything, Topkin writes, Rays executive VP Andrew Friedman has been known for holding on to big-name players like Carl Crawford, B.J. Upton, and James Shields. More from the AL and NL East..
- There’s “absolutely nothing” brewing on trade talks for Mets pitcher Bartolo Colon at the moment, a source tells Andy Martino of the New York Daily News (on Twitter).
- The Blue Jays were interested in Darwin Barney before he was shipped to the Dodgers and have kicked the tires on the White Sox’s Gordon Beckham for the last month, tweets Bruce Levine of WSCR-AM. However, Beckham’s recent slump has hurt progress in those talks. Toronto was linked to Beckham last October.
- Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos said the main reason why he traded for Danny Valencia was his “success versus left-handers and what he can do in the box,” tweets Shi Davidi of Sportsnet. Valencia boasts a career .879 OPS against lefties.
The Dodgers and Cubs are nearing a trade that will send Darwin Barney to Los Angeles, reports Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune (on Twitter). Barney was designated for assignment last week, though he was been said to be garnering trade interest earlier this afternoon.
The Cubs scored a league-best eight players within MLB.com’s midseason list of the top 100 prospects in baseball, and also topped the league in terms of the “prospect points” ranking system. Kris Bryant (fourth), Javier Baez (sixth) and Addison Russell (seventh) were the highest-rated young Cubs on the list.
Here’s some more news out of Wrigleyville…
- Rumors linking the Cubs to David Price don’t make much sense, ESPN’s Buster Olney opines (Twitter links). While the Cubs have the prospect depth the Rays are looking for in a Price deal, Olney wonders why Chicago would give away top minor league talent when they could just sign a top free agent arm like Jon Lester this winter if they wanted to add an ace.
- Olney figures the Cubs would only make a move for him if the Rays’ asking price severely dropped and if Chicago was allowed to negotiate an extension before making the trade, as the Cubs aren’t going to be contenders before Price’s contract expires at the end of the 2015 season.
- “We called Theo [Epstein] and asked about Jake Arrieta and we were told they will NOT move him. Period,” an NL scout tells David Kaplan of CSN Chicago (Twitter link). There were rumors last month that the Cubs were gauging the market for Arrieta, yet it’s no surprise he could be untouchable given his excellent performance this year. The right-hander has a 2.18 ERA and 9.8 K/9 over 91 innings and is controlled through the 2017 season.
- The Cubs have received trade interest in second baseman Darwin Barney and expect to move him before Thursday’s DFA deadline, Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish tweets. Barney was designated for assignment by Chicago on July 22.
- Neither the Cubs or the Diamondbacks will trade from their surplus of young infielders this summer, as both teams prefer to use that depth to look for pitching in the offseason, Metsblog.com’s Matthew Cerrone reports.
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.