Darwin Barney Can Help the Dodgers

I once had an argument with Darwin Barney about whether or not he had any trade value. This is me, gloating that I was right — the Dodgers traded for the Cubs infielder on Monday.

Then again, maybe Barney had a point. We’ll have to see what the player to be named later looks like. No — it doesn’t matter. A team saw what Darwin Barney can do and traded for it. I win the argument. (He can still call me a nerd.)

The argument was about defensive value, so we’re not going to talk about Barney’s .266 On Base Percentage over the last two years. We’re talking about Barney’s glove at second base, which has been best in the league over the last three years. Yes, the league the league. And look at the National League, and there you go, the Dodgers are fourth-worst with the glove in the National League by UZR.

So it’s pretty simple. But there’s a little more here.

Yes, Dee Gordon is scratch or worse with the glove at second, and Barney can help at that position.

But there are worse offenders on the team. Namely, Hanley Ramirez. Miguel Rojas has been his caddy to date, and his work in a limited sample lines up with the scouting reports in spring. But Rojas has been bad with the stick and is expected to stay bad. Though Barney’s offense has only been slightly better to date, he’s projected to outperform him with the stick going forward.

Eh, we probably aren’t going to see Barney step ahead of Rojas behind Hanley at short. But surely a +15 second baseman could play short in a pinch? The positional adjustments in WAR suggest that the position is only about five runs harder. Of course, that doesn’t include real-life issues like arm strength, but in terms of range, Barney has shown what it takes to handle short. He’s even played a hundred or so innings of it in the big leagues.

This is all important because Hanley Ramirez averaged 463 plate appearances a year coming into this season. It’s come to the point where an awkward slide into second base sends off alarm bells on twitter. If he takes a break, the team needs a backup shortstop. Voila, Darwin Barney.

It’s not completely unlike some of the thought behind the Athletics. Build with depth and make sure your worst pieces are better than other teams’ worst pieces. Surely Barney is going to help the Dodgers more than Joaquin Arias is helping the Giants.

But is Barney better than the Dodgers’ internal options? There’s Chone Figgins. His resurgent walk rate and defense say he’s slightly more likely to pair a league average stick with good glove. But Figgins has been rehabbing for a while at Triple-A, and the team made this deal anyway. Justin Turner has been useful with the bat, but grades below average everywhere. Perhaps Barney is going to replace Rojas. Steamer says they’re both replacement level.

Maybe this has been too many words about Darwin Barney. He might help the Dodgers, or he might actually be redundant with the particular guys they already have on their rosters. This could have been a play to keep him away from the rival Giants, who have a bigger need at the position.

But he’s got great glove and can play many positions. You know his general manager loves that skill set. In fact, in one offseason, he signed Mark Ellis, Adam Kennedy, *and* Jerry Hairston Jr. — two of them to two-year deals.

Barney should take full advantage of this audition for Ned Colletti, it seems. Maybe a few plays like this will help do the trick.

With a phone full of pictures of pitchers' fingers, strange beers, and his two toddler sons, Eno Sarris can be found at the ballpark or a brewery most days. Read him here, writing about the A's or Giants at The Athletic, or about beer at October. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris if you can handle the sandwiches and inanity.

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8 years ago

That Hardball Times article is a really good read. Really like your stuff.