While the addition of Emilio Bonifacio wrinkled the infield plans for the Chicago Cubs in 2014, it’s unclear whether his presence will actually have an impact on the expected starter at second base, Darwin Barney. We’ve discussed their relative merits as starters, and, in the end, the difference is sufficiently slight that I don’t really see it worth upsetting the balance of the clubhouse (Barney, as a leader, a hard-worker, and a three-year starter, is not a guy you unseat for a teeny, tiny upgrade unless you’re prepared to have some unhappy campers – right or wrong).
No, I should think that Barney will remain the starting second baseman going into the season, even if Bonifacio makes the team. That is, assuming Barney is still on the team come Opening Day.
To that point, George King has reported that the Yankees – who at one time had interest in Barney – are looking to improve their infield depth, and may use their catching surplus to do it. GM Brian Cashman said that, if the Yankees do add in the infield, they’ll look to do it on the cheap. As far as Barney goes, and the Cubs’ catching needs go, that’s a check, check, check.
Unsurprisingly, then, Bruce Levine reports that teams have continued to inquire about Barney this offseason, even as recently as last week when the other New York team – the Mets – checked in. That kind of checking in is probably going to continue throughout Spring Training. Given the Yankees’ situation just described, I’d be surprised if there weren’t more discussions there at some point.
This entire dialog, by the way, is a two-edged sword: all that stuff I said in the preamble about Barney being the starter if he’s on the team? If the front office believes Bonifacio is the better bet as a starter for 2014 (be it for competitive or trade value reasons), I could see them affirmatively trying to find a new home for Barney. That way, they would avoid the very ugliness that unseating Barney could create.
All that said, it remains entirely plausible that the best course of action is simply to let Barney remain the starter at second base, hope for improvement at the plate over last season, and see what’s what in July.