When the Seattle Mariners signed Robinson Cano to the OMGLOL contract of the offseason, folks naturally speculated that the New York Yankees would be desperate to replace him at second base. Wishful thinkers in the Cubs fan online contingent immediately pointed to Darwin Barney, as though he was clearly the next level of option just behind Cano.
I joke, though there was a touch of logic to it, given that Barney’s long-term future in Chicago is in doubt beyond July or so, when Javier Baez and/or Arismendy Alcantara could theoretically push for time in the bigs. Further, Barney’s super-glove-lighter-bat approach could work well mixed with the Yankees’ glove-weak infield, and his bat could be hidden in their lineup a bit better than it has been with the Cubs.
Predictably, though, the Yankees gonna Yankee, and they turned their attention to a more attractive replacement for Cano, free agent second baseman Omar Infante. Unfortunately for the Yankees, Infante just inked a four-year, $30.25 million deal with the Royals, and the Yankees have to go digging again.
Yes, says Bruce Levine, who today reports that the Yankees’ interest in a trade for Barney could pick up again now that Infante has signed. Levine, who had previously suggested a Barney/Yankees connection, says that the two sides have indeed previously discussed the second baseman.
Barney, 28, is coming off an abysmal year at the plate (though his walk rate was up and his ISO was normal – the real problem was the .222 BABIP, which was more than 50 points lower than his career mark coming into the season), but his glove was as fantastic as ever. By the advanced metrics, Barney should have won his second consecutive Gold Glove. He’s eligible for arbitration for the first time this year, and he’s likely to make something between $2 and $3 million.
For the Yankees, Barney could platoon with Kelly Johnson at second, could be a full-time starter there, or could simply provide late-inning defensive help all over the infield. Given the low cost, he makes some sense in a variety of roles. That said, you wouldn’t be looking for Barney to net much in return. A Barney-plus-minor-league-piece for Brett Gardner deal would be interesting, given Gardner’s availability. He’s a free agent after this season, though, so his long-term value to the Cubs could be limited (then again, he could always be flipped at the deadline, or made a qualifying offer at the end of the year, depending on how well he performs). If a deal like that doesn’t work, you’re probably looking at Barney for a minor league arm without a ton of upside or with a bevy of flaws.
One thing worth noting is that the Yankees don’t have to pick up a second baseman. They’ve already signed Kelly Johnson, who could play there, as well as Brendan Ryan. Even if Alex Rodriguez is suspended, they’ll have the bodies to cover the infield. (And, let’s be honest: Darwin Barney doesn’t provide that much more than “cover”.) The Yankees could also elect to step up and try and grab Brandon Phillips, who is eminently available from the Reds. It has been reported that the Yankees rejected a Phillips-for-Gardner swap, however, partly because Phillips used his partial no-trade clause (the Yankees are a team to which Phillips can reject a deal) to ask for a re-worked contract. Given that he’s already set to be overpaid over the next four years, the Yankees balked.
Nevertheless, Barney and the Yankees is something to keep an eye on. If Barney were dealt, you’d likely see Luis Valbuena sliding over to second base in something close to a full-time role (he’s been playing second base full-time in Venezuela this Winter at the request of the Cubs), and/or would see Logan Watkins get a chance to click.