Best Case Scenario
I’ve been fairly vocal in my displeasure with Darwin Barney over the past few years, but I really don’t think Barney is a value-less player. Deployed properly, he could be one of the better utility infielders/platoon second basemen in all of baseball, and the best case scenario for the 2014 Cubs is that he becomes that player.
Against left handed pitching, Darwin Barney is a career .263/.313/.381 hitter. That’s not going to set any records for production at the keystone, but that 86 wRC+ would place him…well, forget about where that would place him amongst 2013 second baseman with over 200 PAs. It’s still not very good, but with his defense, Barney could provide pretty solid value as a platoon hitter and late game defensive replacement.
On the fat side of the platoon would be Luis Valbuena, who hit righties to the tune of .217/.331/.383 (97 wRC+) in 2013. Valbuena has been an excellent defender at third base with the Cubs, and he could provide at least average defense at second.
Together, the two could produce at an acceptable level for second basemen. If Barney could hit close to his career norms, and Valbuena sustains his 2013 production, the two could combine for something in the neighborhood of (get this!) .236/.325/.385, a .314 wOBA and around 15-20 homers (these numbers assume Valbuena gets about 500 PAs and Barney about 250). That’s LEAGUE AVERAGE production in 2013, and we haven’t even gotten to defensive yet!
Over the past two seasons, Barney has been roughly a 16 run per 150 game defender. The sample sizes for Valbuena are too small to come to a good conclusion, but it’s reasonable to think he’d be no more than 3 runs away from average in either direction. If that’s the case, the two could combine for about 8 runs of defensive value.
Altogether, the platoon could provide around 2.5-4 wins of value, depending on how Barney’s glove is deployed. That doesn’t sound like a ton, but there were only 7 teams that got 3 or more wins out of their second basemen in 2013. The Cubs themselves got a whopping -0.5 wins out of their second basemen in 2013.
As unsexy as it may be, a Barney/Valbuena platoon actually looks pretty palatable. -Tommy
Worst Case Scenario
Since becoming the Cubs full time 2nd basemen, Darwin Barney has not seen much success at the plate. His best season as a hitter was 2011 when he put up a triple slash of .276/.313/.353. In 2012 he obviously won the Gold Glove and sported a 2.3 WAR season. The value on defense is almost irreplaceable but a defense only player can only be on a team ready to contend. As everyone knows a player like Barney who has struggled at the plate the last two seasons cannot be hidden in a lineup like the Cubs are running out game in and game out.
The worst-case scenario for Barney would have management tossing his belonging right out of Wrigley. His best season as a hitter was 2011 but his best overall season was 2012. Even his best hitting season was not impressive by any means. Darwin cannot hit like he did last year and that is obvious. Another sub .600 OPS would almost certainly end his tenure with the Cubs and make him a defensive replacement only player if a team would want that on their bench. The absolute worst-case scenario for Darwin Barney would be if he hit even just a little worst than he did in 2013 but also does not play Darwin Barney (Extremely good) defense. Enter Emilio Bonifacio/Donnie Murphy/Logan Watkins and possibly budding super prospects (!) If that happens.
Darwin Barney’s worst-case scenario is pretty scary, but all will not be lost. It will not get that bad. Coaches and management will not let that happen. Good news is help is on the way as soon as mid season. Regardless this is a huge year for Barney. -Kenny