The Chicago Cubs have a solid, young pair of middle infielders with shortstop Starlin Castro and second baseman Darwin Barney. One has already signed a big extension. If the Cubs are smart, the other should soon.
The Cubs recently locked up the All-Star Castro to a seven-year, $60-million contract. His partner, Darwin Barney is currently locked into a one-year, $500k deal that expires after this season, according to Spotrac.
Barney is one of the more consistent performers in the Cubs' lineup. In 300 career games, he has a .264 batting average and 83 RBI and nine triples.
In his first season with the Cubs, Barney played in 30 games posting a .241 batting average.
Barney joined the Cubs for spring training in 2011 and won the starting job soon after.
In his first full season in the Big Leagues, he played in 143 games and notched a .276 batting average.
Defensively, Barney played in 135 games at second base and earned a .981 fielding percentage. He also played in five games at shortstop and was perfect in 15 total chances.
Barney has been a defensive stalwart for the Cubs since joining the team and this season he has grabbed national attention.
The third-year infielder set the National League record for consecutive error-less games on August 29 at 114, breaking the mark set by David Eckstein in 2010.
The Major League record is 141, set by Placido Polanco in 2007.
Barney leads all major league second basemen in fielding percentage this season and has earned the respect of his manager Dale Sveum (via Chicago Cubs Website).
"He's gone far and above preparation on an everyday basis to make himself better," Sveum said of Barney. "It all started in Spring Training, the hours he put in and the extra time and the adjustments he made around the bag on the pivot, understanding about when he moves left and right, and using his glove and taking his bare hand out of the equation to get him more length through certain ground balls and angles and positioning.”
The third-year pro is making a case to knock off the National League’s best defensive second baseman Brandon Phillips.
Phillips has won three of the last four National League Gold Gloves at second base, including the last two.
Sveum is doing his part to make sure managers consider Barney for the coveted postseason award (via the Chicago Sun Times).
"You hope it does [help] just talking in passing,’’ he said. ‘‘You try to do the best you can, but the actions on the field and that streak itself are impressive enough."
Barney is a proven winner at every level. He led his high school to its first ever state title, won two national titles at Oregon State and should be a key piece in the Cubs rebuilding process.
The 26-year-old plays the game the right way and is a true professional evident by his handling of his time in the minors.
In May 2010, Barney was the shortstop for the Iowa Cubs. He was leading the league in batting average and fielding percentage. But, the Cubs called up Castro from Double-A.
"For me, it was time to sit back and say, 'What do I have to do? What kind of player do I have to be?,” Barney said.
A move like that could debilitate a player and cause a collapse. Barney used it as an opportunity to learn from a Cubs legend in Ryne Sandberg.
Sandberg and Barney met on the field early and worked at second base nearly every day in effort to get Barney into a routine at the position.
The hard work has apparently paid off.
Seemingly, the only hole in Barney’s game is his power numbers. He is a good contact hitter and has only 48 strikeouts in 446 at-bats this season. In his three years in the majors, however, Barney has just eight home runs. Six of those four-baggers have come this season.
The 26-year-old certainly won’t be winning any Silver Sluggers with his low power numbers, but his consistency on defense makes him an extremely valuable asset.
He won’t be putting up Robinson Cano-like numbers, but he is worthy of a significant contract this offseason.
Adding a Gold Glove would only solidify Barney’s case.
Ian Kinsler of the Texas Rangers signed a five-year, $75 million contract in April. Kinsler has better plate numbers than Barney, but the Cubs' second baseman has a better glove.
Barney has some significant years left in his career. He is outperforming his contract this season and deserves a new deal with the Cubs.
His short career has been successful. If he improves at the plate, Barney could be one of the best second baseman in the game.
The Cubs would be smart to lock him up for the next few years.
A four-year deal worth $12 to 18 million dollars would be a great investment from a team that has struggled to get return out of bigger contracts. His character and defensive abilities are something the Cubs can build around.