darwin barney smileChicago Cubs manager Rick Renteria spoke with the media to put a little more color on Starlin Castro’s hamstring injury, and his timeline for return. You can see RR’s comments here, here, and here, among other places.

The gist: Castro’s injury is not as serious as the hamstring issue in Spring Training last year (which actually wasn’t all that serious either, in the end). That one cost Castro about two weeks, and this one will keep the Cubs’ shortstop out for seven to ten days. No one is worried about Castro for Opening Day right now.

In the interim, RR expects to fill in at short primarily with Darwin Barney, Emilio Bonifacio, Arismendy Alcantara, and Javier Baez (though he would only see a slight uptick in his time there, since he was already getting occasional starts). Assuming he makes the team, were there a long-term injury to Castro in the early part of the season, Bonifacio is the guy you’d expect to see most of the starts, given that he was picked up for his versatility, and offers some potential offensive upside.

That Barney could see some starts at shortstop is interesting, then, given that he has been the Cubs’ primary second baseman for three years now. We know that Barney can play shortstop – that was his natural position coming up, and he says he still takes grounders there every day. Obviously we’ve discussed Barney’s future with the Cubs at some length, be it in terms of the coming glut of infield talent or the arrival of Bonifacio.

It’s possible that the Castro injury will give the Cubs an opportunity to show Barney off at shortstop a bit, where, if a plus defender, he would have meaningful value to a number of other teams in baseball, whether as a starter or a utility piece. There have been Barney rumors throughout the offseason, even as recently as last week. (Indeed, just this morning, Bruce Levine told Mully and Hanley that the Mets are looking at Barney as a possible shortstop, and have been considering it for a while now.)

There’s only so much you could show in Spring Training, and this isn’t a long-term thing, in any event. But still, it’s interesting to hear that Barney could be shifted over, despite there being plenty of other options to handle the position in the Spring (and in the regular season, too, what with Bonifacio and Donnie Murphy, for example).

  • Funn Dave

    Must be trynda show off Barney’s versatility.

  • Q-Ball

    Jim Callis said last year that the best defensive shortstop on the Cubs was Darwin Barney. We all know Barney comes prepared, positions himself very well, and works hard, so I think that would translate to above average at least at SS.

    Of course, this may also be Barney’s future: UT guy, which for his shortcomings as a starter, he would be really an excellent UT guy

    • SenorGato

      I have zero doubts he’d be an excellent UT guy, for good teams at that.

  • SenorGato

    Not even a little surprised that Barney’s versatility will get a showing, 2014 has a real shot at being his last year with the Cubs.

  • rob

    Any chance that, with reasonable salaries due to limited offensive production, that he could be our long-term utility infielder after Baez, for example, comes up and tries second base?

    • J Bounds

      Why not?

  • J Bounds

    This makes perfect sense to me. If Baez does make the ball club either now or midseason, Barney’s is going to move to the bench. If and when that happens, Barney still has some value to the Cubs as a spot starter at either 2nd or SS or a defensive replacement.

    In a perfect world, when Baez comes up, I think you probably move Castro to 2nd and slot Baez in at SS (in order to take advantage of his plus arm). Or you keep Castro at Short and play Baez at 2nd. I’m not too crazy about that middle infield combo defensively, though and I’m guessing the Cubs would like to see Baez get some more reps before moving him up to the majors (along with all the other reasons for him to start the year at AAA). However, Baez’s bat just might not allow it. I know some see him at third, but I’m not a huge fan of putting him there (which would probably be a tougher transition than playing 2nd). Plus then you still have Barney’s lesser bat in the lineup. Even if Olt doesn’t make the team, Valbuena and Murphy are still gonna provide better offense than Barney and their defense at third will probably be superior to Baez. Plus then you aren’t blocking Olt, Bryant and Villanueva at third. Then you still have Barney at a utility infielder (which isn’t a terrible idea IMO). If Bonafacio plays well in a super utility roll prior to bringing Baez up you flip him, other wise you park him at AAA. JMO.

    • J Bounds

      Sorry for all the typos. Multi-tasking…… poorly.

  • bnile1

    I made a couple of comments last week that If barney were traded he would likely be playing ss for his new team. Like Calis said he’s a nature SS and a very good one(when he was coming up several scouts I read said he was Gold Glove caliber defensively at short), and his plus defense at short would negate his light bat. I think the early showing of alcantara has moved the cubs to start the Barney trade watch. The reality is that they are going to have to trade someone, and Barney is older, has name recognition, a gold glove and is already in his arbitration years. Then when you consider Castro is and Allstar and cost contained, alcantara looks like a future top of the order guy, Baez is likely to be picketed by animal rights activists(for abusing animal hides), Watkins can play OF and IF and is dirt cheap, and that’s not even considering any of their other IF prospects that are coming up. So the new mantra will be

    “Ask not what can you get from Barney, but what Barney can get for you.”

    • J Bounds

      Long term, I don’t think the Cubs will hang on to Barney for the reasons you outlined. However, I’d be a little surprised if the Cubs moved him this year…… unless he hits hits quite a bit better. Sure, he plays great defense, but he’s also got a career OPS of under .630. Pretty tough to start that in any lineup. He does, however, have some value in a utility role and I like the idea of him being around to help Baez out when he comes up. That, to me, has more value than flipping him for some other flawed player…… because I don’t think anyone is trading a legitimate prospect or player for Barney. I don’t care if he has a gold glove or not.

      Besides, Alcantara probably needs some additional seasoning before he’s ready. Now, if we’re talking in the offseason or this time next year…… then yeah, I think you trade Barney for what you can to clear roster room for some lower cost or higher ceiling guys.

      • bnile1

        J B

        any trade would be contigent on him rebounding back to his former glory(270ish average) If he does that he would have value, and I don’t think you’d see if for a flawed player, likely as apart of a package or in trade for a young pitcher. Edwards or Black redux for a team in need at the deadline.

        Your second point about alcantara needing seasoning is exactly why I would think he will be traded. I don’t think the Cubs want to try to break in Baez, Bryant and Alcantara all that the same time. So you figure Acantara in the second half, then bryant and or Baez next year.

        Don’t get me wrong I would love Barney in a utililty role, But this is about what I expect to happen, and I suspect he will be more valuable in a trade, and they can get someone else younger and cheaper to fill his spot IMHO.

  • Fastball

    I am highly in favor of Barney being the utilitily infielder. He is veteran leader on this team. He is a class act and we need some of those guys in the club house everyday. Not saying we have any bad apples but you don’t know what we have until they all get here. Somebody like Barney can keep young guys away from the Chi town nightlife etc. instill a work ethic and set a work ethic expectation. He is valuable beyond his play on the field IMO.

    • DocPeterWimsey

      What does it matter if the young players do or do not take advantage of the Chicago nightlife? Many of the best players in baseball lived like Mick Jagger between games, afterall.

  • Mr Gonzo

    If Barney flashes quality “supple leather” at SS these next few weeks, and the Mets bite, what will his value be in terms of prospects? Could the Cubs get back Rafael Montero?

    • DocPeterWimsey

      No. Trading Barney will probably get the Cubs some sleeper candidate for whom the world sees a low floor but the FO perceives a higher ceiling than do others.

      • JadeBos

        Remember, the Cubs got Pineyro from the Nats last year for Hariston. Something like that would be a great return for Barney. IMO I’d rather have Valbuena as the Utility guy for 15.

        • blublud

          And Barney has to have more value than Hairston at that point. Plus he has more control.

  • Diehardthefirst

    As I have pointed out a zillion and one times over past 2 years- Barney should be SS as he is better leader, smarter fielder and team can carry weak hitting SS who captains IF-and as a result frees up Castro for CF as I also have advocated for 2 yrs where he can relax and fulfill potential as hitter

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