Earlier this offseason, the Chicago Cubs claimed infielder Jeff Bianchi – a top Royals prospect as recently as 2010 – off of waivers. The Cubs were expected to need some middle infield depth (they still do, quite frankly), and Bianchi is a very good defender with some upside at the plate. He had just turned 25.

Well, forget all of that.

Today, the Brewers claimed Bianchi off waivers from the Cubs, which move was necessary to open up a spot for recently-signed Paul Maholm. I would have expected one of the many marginal arms on the 40-man roster to get the boot, but instead, it’s Bianchi. The move only further solidifies Darwin Barney’s questionable grasp on the second base job.

You’re probably wondering why the Cubs would claim Bianchi last month only to waive him shortly thereafter. The answer can probably be answered only by those in the know – and they are few – but I would imagine it’s a multilayered answer. On the one hand, Bianchi is a fringe roster player as it is (hence his original waiver by the Royals). On the other, the Cubs probably knew there was going to be a great deal of roster turnover in December and January, and figured that Bianchi bought them some additional opportunities. When certain moves didn’t pan out, or certain Cubs players stuck around longer than expected, the Cubs were forced to make a tough choice on the roster front. That’s probably all there is to it.

The 40-man roster once again stands at 40.

  • http://cubbiescrib.com Luke

    And I was hoping that Bianchi could replace Barney at second. Phooey.

    Maybe Blake DeWitt can have a monster year and at least give Barney some competition.

    • 100 Years of Tears

      I was hoping Bianchi would be the one pushing Barney… Not a big Dewitt fan. Oh well, I still like the direction we’re going.

  • Andrew

    kerry wood is close to re-signing according to mlbtraderumors

    • EQ76

      If Wood is about to sign, another will get dropped off the 40 man roster.. wonder who’s next?

      • Mick

        Aha! I predicted this move yesterday under the http://www.bleachernation.com/2012/01/10/paul-maholm-reportedly-gets-one-year-4-25-million-deal-with-club-option-for-2013/ thread. In my prediction I guessed first Bianchi would go to open up a spot and then Lendy Castillo would be next. Castillo was a Rule 5 picks so, he’d need to stay on the 25-man roster for the entire season in order to be retained. Not to rub salt in the wound but Brett’s predictions were pitchers Marcos Mateo, Alberto Cabrera and John Gaub. There’s also the Red Sox and Padres compensation to consider.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          And not to rub it right back, but Bianchi was actually one of my original picks all the way back in late December: http://www.bleachernation.com/2011/12/26/chicago-cubs-sign-pitcher-andy-sonnanstine/comment-page-2/#comment-61256

          After the pitching additions, I updated my thoughts. But I did say it a few times back then. :)

          • Mick

            Allright, you got me there. We’ll try it again with the upcoming Kerry Wood transaction, I’m guessing Lendy Castillo is offered back to the Phils. Unless you say something different Mateo is next on your list.

            Next thing you know we’ll be betting on arrivals and departures.

            • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

              Yup, Mateo’s my guy. Our honor is on the line.

              • JulioZuleta

                Think the Cubs are waiting til after the Convention to trade Garza? If he’s still on the team, they can do the vague “we are listening and willing to deal at the right price to improve the team both now and in the future” and appease both groups (the “Trade Garza group” and the “We need Garza group”. If he’s gone, it opens them up for some criticism from the latter group.

                • Skinner

                  I think Theo is waiting for one thing and one thing only: the Tigers/Yankees/Jays et al to cave and pay the price he’s asking. Whether this happens before the convention or after is irrelevant. He could care less about the Keep Garza crowd, or even the Trade Garza crowd, and that’s the way we should want it.

                  • JulioZuleta

                    Yeah, probably right. I’ve been to many of the conventions, and it does make for some awkward moments when somewhat blurts out an unapproved question. I hope it gets done soon.

                    • Skinner

                      Yeah, I’m getting impatient too. Excited for the chance of having a top 10 or even 5 farm system at the end of this offseason despite supposedly not having much in the way to sell.

  • kinhin

    The Cubs should go ahead and allow Junior Lake to take over 2b.

    • http://cubbiescrib.com Luke

      Little soon for that. He’s only got half a season at Double A. His 2011 Daytona performance was really his first breakout performance. Even if he recreates that in Tennessee in 2012, his strikeout rate will still need to be addressed before he gets a crack at Wrigley.

  • Matt Murton

    Ian Stewart at 2nd, Vitters at 3rd? Possibly an option

    • http://sportsfixchicago.com/ Ty @ SFC

      I don’t think that’s going to happen this year, but I think it’d be worth a shot at some point. Maybe next year if Vitters looks like he’s ready to make the leap. And Stewart does seem to have some versatility after playing some 2nd base in Colorado.

  • bluekoolaidaholic

    Am I the only Cubs fan that likes Barney?? I thought he did ok for being so young.
    Other famous big leaguers, have done worse their first year or so.
    I have followed his career and he has been on winners all the way except for loser Quade’s nightmare. He was great at Oregon State and through the ML system.
    He works hard, plays the right way, hits and fields ok. I guess he’s not Sandberg, but I say we should give him another year or so and see how he develops.
    He chews gum weird, but that shouldn’t keep him out of MLB. lol

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Without going into a whole thing (opinions on Barney’s performance are slightly a matter of taste – for me, 2011 is just about as good as it’s going to get, that’s not good enough), I want to make sure I keep emphasizing one thing: Barney is not young. He’s 26. He’s one month younger than Blake DeWitt. He’s six months younger than Ian Stewart.

    • http://cubbiescrib.com Luke

      I would love for Darwin Barney to be a Cub for the next ten years… as a back up infielder. He does very well maximizing what he brings to the table, but I think he’s just about maxed it out. I could see him improving to the point of a OPS+ of 105 or so, but that’s about it.

      The Cubs can do better than that for a starting second baseman.

      • CubFan Paul

        so what will they do? is there a “Ian Stewart” like 2B out there in danger of his losing his job/getting non tendered that Theo&Co could be looking at? Or should they trade for a near/almost ML ready prospect?

        • http://CubbiesCrib.com Luke

          I’d just as soon wait and see what Logan Watkins and Junior Lake do in Tennessee before making any serious moves. Throw Vitters on that list as well.

          If Watkins has good year, the Cubs may have their second baseman in time. If Lake or Vitters break out, they can slot into third (eventually) moving Stewart to second.

          But the Cubs were to be offered a promising nearly-ready second baseman in exchange for Byrd or Soto, I probably wouldn’t say no.

          • realist

            What about Lombardozzi of the Nats? Byrd & somebody else for him?

  • Doc Evans

    I agree. I don’t mind Barney at all. To me it seemed he played the game harder than the majority of his teammates this past season. But I do not believe he is the 2b of the future. I would love to see him on the roster in the future as a utility man, a-la Augie Ojeda.

    • Skinner

      A Barney is fine for a rebuilding team.

  • ogyu

    Hearing Darwin Barney’s name always makes me think about the biological evolution of purple dinosaurs, which gets annoying after a while…

  • CubSouth

    I live near Daytona and love going to the Cubs affiliate whenever I get a chance. Could anyone tell me a few of the players to watch for when I go this upcoming season? Thanks, in advance.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Great question. Cates and Kirk immediately come to mind on the pitching side. DeVoss could be up there. I’m just shooting from the hip without looking.

      • CubSouth

        Thanks Brett, the stadium, in itself, is an icon. And with Cates, Kirk and DeVoss to look forward to as well, it should be a very nice weekend! Y’all should come down sometime and let a true southerner treat you to some southern hospitality. We could catch a few games and talk about the Cubs. Nothing better!

    • http://CubbiesCrib.com Luke

      No problem. Covering the Cubs minors is what I do.

      Keep in mind that the 2012 minor league rosters won’t be set until the very end of spring training, so some of the names here may not be on the team right away (or at all). In short, I’m guessing. I’ll also try to limit myself to the highlights.

      All in all, I expect Daytona to be down somewhat this year. I don’t think they’ll repeat as FSL champions.

      Likely Daytona Cubs to watch (in no particular order):
      CF – Matt Szczur – Cubs center fielder of the future. Good speed, good contact, probably under-rated power.

      C – Micah Gibbs – Switch hitting good defensive backstop. Struggled some in Peoria, but if he can bounce back he’ll be worth keeping tabs on.

      LHP – Austin Kirk – Pitched a no hitter for Peoria, but his ceiling is probably as a number four starter. Then again, some of his numbers make me think he could be a break out waiting to happen.

      2B – Ronald Torreyes – Recently arrived from the Reds, he will hit. And hit. And hit.

      SS – Elliot Soto – Good defense, not so good with the bat. I think there is upside here and that that he could emerge as a major league backup kind of guy, but very few agree with me.

      2B/CF – Taiwan Easterling – He made it to Daytona in 2011 despite being drafted that summer. If he doesn’t return there to start the year, I think he could be there by year’s end. Other 2011 draftees who could make an appearance include Tony Zych and Zeke DeVoss.

      I hope Daytona gets a few of the crop of very promising starters who spent much of 2011 in Boise and Arizona. These guys include Ben Wells, Luis Liria, Starling Peralta, Frank del Valle, Yao-Lin Wang, Su-Min Jung, and more. Most of them will likely start in Peoria, but we should see a few rapid promotions.

      There is a slim chance (less than 5%) I’d say, that you might get a glimpse of Javier Baez or Dan Vogelbach. By age we’d expect both to start in Arizona or Boise, but due to some crowding at their positions, I’d not be surprised if one or both fight their way onto the Peoria roster with a very strong spring showing. If they do, and if they then proceed to tear up the MidWest league, given that both are from Florida I can see the Cubs challenging them with a promotion late in the year. It is a slim chance, but if you see Vogelbach posting a SLG of .650 or so for Peoria, keep a close eye on the minor league transaction list.

      • Ron

        What do you do? I mean for a job. Your depth of knowledge of the cubs minors is amazing.

      • Puma0821

        Luke, since you are the expert… I live in Des Moines and am very excited about the I-Cubs this year. Would you expect all of Rizzo, Jackson, Vitters and Mcnutt to be there this year? Also, anyone else to get excited about?

        • http://www.casualcubsfan.com hansman1982

          Rizzo and Jackson are locks to start the season at Iowa, unless they just tear up ST, and even then, they are long shots to break camp with the big league team.

          I have seen reports that McNutt will be starting in Iowa as well but considering his struggles thus far in AA, I would be more inclined to put my money on him starting in AA again.

          I would say that Vitters would start in Iowa if he has a really strong ST and shows that last year was a stepping stone year. He is still just 22 so I wouldn’t be a bit shocked if he started in AA waiting to see what happens with Marquez Smith and, partly, Ian Stewart.

        • http://CubbiesCrib.com Luke

          I pretty much agree with hansman. Rizzo and Jackson would have to work miracles to break camp with Chicago (baring injuries), Jackson more so than Rizzo. Jackson isn’t even on the 40 man roster yet.

          Vitters should be Iowa, no question. He has nothing left to prove in Tennessee, and his production in 2011 wasn’t bad at all. I’d hoped the Cubs would challenge him with a promotion to Iowa late last season.

          McNutt is a tougher case. 2011 was basically a lost season for him due to some non-arm injuries. I could see him repeating AA, depending on how he looks in spring training. Regardless, he’s still the best pitching prospect in the system and he will almost certainly hit Iowa (if not Chicago) by the end of the season.

          Other players…

          Keep an eye on Rebel Ridling. He was a touch old for AA last season, but I can’t argue with his production, and he was blocked at first by LaHair. I’m not so sure there isn’t more to this guy than meets the eye, but regardless of that he should have fun in the very hitter friendly PCL.

          Steve Clevenger is likely to be in Iowa all season. He is also a touch old, but in his case it is due in part to a position change. He’ll get a chance in the majors one day.

          Jae-Hoon Ha will arrive at some point (second half probably). I like his as a fourth outfielder, but some are convinced he’s starter material. It’ll be interesting to see how he does.

          And then there are a few pitchers to watch. Nick Struck will be back, but the trio I’m more interested in are Brooks Raley, Chris Rusin, and Ryan Searle. Raley may open the year in Tennessee but I think the other two will be in Iowa. I like these guys as back of the rotation starters, but Rusin in particular could emerge as one of those crafty lefties who win way more games than their stuff says they should. I think Dallas Beeler and Eric Jokisch will get a look at AAA at some point this season as well. If Jeff Beliveau doesn’t break camp with the Cubs (look for him to make a strong bid in the spring to replace Sean Marshall), he should be there. The same goes for Rafael Dolis.

          • Puma0821

            Thanks guys! It should be a fun summer in Iowa!

      • CubSouth

        I appreciate your input Luke. I would very much love to go see Szczur, Vogelbach and Baez play with the Daytona team. Although Daytona has a very good attendance when I go, I’m sure now, with this new regime, it will be packed when I’m not there.

  • Cubsin

    I’m on board with Barney, although I’ll admit a team with eight similar hitters would be awful. He plays hard, does the little things a pro shold do, plays solid defense at 2B and SS and runs well. On a contending team, he should be a reserve infielder. On the Cubs, he should bat eighth and play regularly until a better alternative comes along.

    He was one of the few bright spots on the 2011 Cubs. He did his job every day and gave 100% effort. That wasn’t true of many of his teammates.

    • Joe

      I think I agree with your assessment the most, though I’m not certain about the 8-spot. When he doesn’t get enough at-bats, his hitting seems to get weaker. I have no numbers to back that up, though.

  • 2much2say

    Brandon Phillips would be the long term solution. He wants to go to FA in 2012/2013.
    Major market move at 4/12 mil per

  • rcleven

    I thought Bianchi had to be offered back to KC and Cubs loose claiming fee.

    • http://CubbiesCrib.com Luke

      You’re thinking of the Rule 5 draft. Bianchi was a normal waiver claim, and not a Rule 5 pick.

    • JulioZuleta

      He wasn’t a Rule V pick, just a waiver claim. Once the Cubs claimed him, KC no longer had any rights to him.

  • pfk

    OK, lets see now….we had 40…we cut 1…that makes 39…we added 1 …that makes 40. OK, the math works out. Proceed.

  • http://bleachernation ferris

    maybe roberts is comming? fft

  • die hard

    If Barney and Castro switched positions, Cubs defense may be better and then can justify good field no hit at SS and power hitting avg fielder at 2b…perception becomes reality

    • http://CubbiesCrib.com Luke

      By the time Castro is as old as Barney, Castro should be the better shortstop.

  • OlderStyle

    dang, I was interested in seeing what Bianchi could do. KC prospects seem like a pretty good bet.

  • http://jjcubs jj

    I am a barney fan,and can still see him taking the outside pitch down the right field line for a double or triple,great fundamentals lkke theriot and fonteno

    • TWC

      Theriot?  Theriot?  You clearly don’t consider base running or defense fundamental.

    • Rick Vaughn


    • ferrets_bueller
      • TWC

        I had hoped someone would repost that.  Brings a tear to my eye every time.

      • Rick Vaughn

        God he is terrible. Don’t miss him one bit.

        • Kansas Cubs Fan

          It is what it is.


          • ferrets_bueller
            • Rick Vaughn

              First one had me laughing the most.

              When I was playing shortstop Matt Holliday got to field a lot more ground balls.”

              “And we were briefly renamed the ‘St. Louis E6’s.’ I know that. It is what it is.”

  • die hard

    2012 fantasy rankings for 2B…..crickets for Barney….but if moved to SS would he be ranked there?…see below….Id argue hed fall #21-25…..and Castro as a 2B would still rank top 10 there….point is switching them makes team stronger i believe
    T A 2011
    1 Robinson Cano NYY 29 2
    2 Dustin Pedroia Bos 28 1
    3 Ian Kinsler Tex 29 3
    4 Dan Uggla Atl 32 9
    5 Rickie Weeks Mil 29 10
    6 Chase Utley Phi 33 16
    7 Brandon Phillips Cin 30 4
    8 Howard Kendrick LAA 28 6
    9 Dustin Ackley Sea 24 29
    10 Ben Zobrist TB 30 5
    11 Neil Walker Pit 26 8
    12 Danny Espinosa Was 24 11
    13 Jason Kipnis Cle 24 41
    14 Jemile Weeks Oak 25 12
    15 Ryan Roberts Ari 31 7
    16 Aaron Hill Ari 30 15
    17 Kelly Johnson Tor 30 14
    18 Gordon Beckham CWS 25 36
    19 Jose Altuve Hou 21 42
    20 Brian Roberts Bal 34 55
    21 Mark Ellis LAD 34 23
    22 Alexi Casilla Min 27 30
    23 Orlando Hudson SD 34 19
    24 Omar Infante Mia 30 18
    25 Sean Rodriguez TB 26 38

    2012 rankings for SS:

    1 Troy Tulowitzki Col 27 2
    2 Hanley Ramirez Mia 28 18
    3 Jose Reyes Mia 28 1
    4 Elvis Andrus Tex 23 5
    5 Starlin Castro ChC 22 3
    6 Asdrubal Cabrera Cle 26 4
    7 Jimmy Rollins Phi 33 7
    8 J.J. Hardy Bal 29 11
    9 Erick Aybar LAA 28 8
    10 Derek Jeter NYY 37 9
    11 Jhonny Peralta Det 29 10
    12 Alexei Ramirez CWS 30 12
    13 Yunel Escobar Tor 29 13
    14 Stephen Drew Ari 29 31
    15 Dee Gordon LAD 23 24
    16 Ian Desmond Was 26 14
    17 Alcides Escobar KC 25 15
    18 Jason Bartlett SD 32 20
    19 Marco Scutaro Bos 36 17
    20 Emilio Bonifacio Mia 26 6
    21 Rafael Furcal StL 34 35
    22 Jed Lowrie Hou 27 37
    23 Alexi Casilla Min 27 27
    24 Alex Gonzalez Mil 35 25
    25 Yuniesky Betanct KC 30 19

    • pakman23

      fantasy rankings do not matter in terms of value to a team.