Woe be to the Rangers who have lost Derek Holland for half a season (at least), Yu Darvish for at least the first little bit of the season, Jurickson Profar for two to three months, and Geovany Soto for two to three months. If there’s a team in baseball that could use a nice stopgap addition, it’s probably the Rangers.
Enter the Cubs, a team full of stopgap options and the flexibility to deal them. We’ve already heard about the Rangers’ interest in Cubs backup catcher George Kottaras, but now the interest is reportedly extending into the infield, which was a pretty reasonable guess, given the Profar injury.
Rangers beat writer T.R. Sullivan reports that the Rangers are scouting the Cubs’ infield surplus, and are specifically looking at Darwin Barney and Donnie Murphy, with a preference for Barney. Given the recent questions about Barney’s role with the Cubs, and also the possibility that Ryan Roberts could make the team (thus bouncing Murphy from the roster), those are two pretty obvious names for the Rangers to consider and the Cubs to consider dealing.
Dealing Barney now likely wouldn’t net much in return (though the Cubs would be relieved of his modest $2.3 million salary; Murphy makes $825,000), as he’s coming off of an abysmal year with the bat, and he’d be viewed as a mere utility piece for the Rangers. Pair him with Kottaras in a trade? Well, sure, maybe you get something nice, but try to remain realistic about the kind of return these pieces could net. If Barney were to return to 2011/2012 form with the bat in the first half? The Cubs could probably do better at the deadline than now.
You also have to keep in mind that, at this point in Spring, the market is suddenly flooded with fringe roster guys who didn’t make their previous team, but who might still be decent enough to merit a 25-man roster spot on a needy team. Is Barney (or Murphy) better than a Ronny Cedeno or a Cesar Izturis? Absolutely. But is the difference worth a top ten organizational prospect? I really doubt it.
(A side benefit of trading Barney in a deal like this? It avoids the awkwardness of demoting him to a utility role on the team with which he came up and became a three-year starter, a Gold Glove winner, and a leader. “Chemistry” can be overplayed concept, but there’s a little something to it in situations like this.)
All in all, I still think I’d like to see the Cubs open the year with both Barney and Kottaras on the roster, but – just as I suspect the Cubs are being – I’m flexible. This is another transitional year for the Cubs, and when the right deal presents itself, the Cubs have to be willing to pull the trigger.