While it's true that defense wins championships, that phrase is only valid to an extent. Despite winning a Gold Glove in 2012 and being a finalist for the award in 2013, second baseman Darwin Barney's defense isn't enough for the Chicago Cubs.
A third of the way through the 2014 season, Barney has almost matched his error total from last season of four. Sure, three errors is nothing to raise a fuss about. It's three errors. But in the past two seasons, Barney has committed only seven total errors. By Barney's standards, three is subpar. He's currently on pace to commit more errors this season than he has in the last two seasons combined.
|Darwin Barney Defensive Statistics, 2012-2014|
|Statistics courtesty of MLB.com|
However, it's not Barney's Fool's Gold Glove that is most discouraging for Cubs fans. It's his bat.
Correction: It's his lack of a bat.
During Barney's Rookie of the Year season in 2011, he hit a solid .276 in 143 games. Unfortunately, it has been all downhill since then. Each season has seen a decrease in his average, most significantly a .046 decline between 2012 and 2013.
For those who don't give any consideration to batting average, his on-base percentage has been decreasing as well. Here are Barney's offensive stats since his 2012 Gold Glove season:
|Darwin Barney Offensive Statistics, 2012-2014|
|Statistics courtesy of MLB.com|
Granted, Barney's offense has improved lately. In fact, he's hit safely in seven of his last eight games. For the Cubs, this adds more benefit than just the obvious offensive production. It also could add some trade value.
There's no shortage of potential second basemen in the Cubs organization who could replace him. Arismendy Alcantara seems to be the most obvious candidate.
Ranked as the No. 6 prospect in the Cubs organization, Alcantara doesn't bring a Gold Glove to the picture—at least not yet. MLB.com's scouting report of Alcantara grades his fielding at 50, which is about average.
However, Alcantara is currently hitting .293 with nine home runs for Triple-A Iowa. He also has 21 doubles and 10 triples. On the basepaths, the speedy 22-year-old has 18 stolen bases in 21 tries.
Alcantara's teammate, Logan Watkins, is also a solid candidate for the second base job, currently hitting .273 with the Iowa Cubs.
Because of Barney's unimpressive offense and his declining defense, the Cubs aren't exactly going to hit the jackpot with a trade. At best, they would likely receive one or two decent prospects from a team looking to make a playoff run.
Luckily, the Cubs didn't sign Barney to a long-term deal after his Gold Glove season in 2012. In fact, Barney is signed to be a Cub only through the end of 2014 with a $2.3 million salary. The fact that Barney doesn't bring any financial baggage and will be a free agent after this season may make him exactly what a team may want for a short-term pickup.
Regardless of whether or not Barney is traded, Cubs fans don't have much to worry about if he remains with the team. Because of Chicago's depth of infield prospects, there are multiple solutions for the team's future at second base. Ideally, Barney would continue to make strides at the plate for the next month so as to add as much trade value as possible. After all, he is only 28 years old.
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