After a September trade in 2015 brought Darwin Barney to the Blue Jays, he re-signed with the club for the 2016 season and provided great value as a utility infielder.
Darwin Barney came to the Blue Jays in September of 2015 by way of a trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Barney had spent most of the 2015 season the minor leagues, but was dealt to the Blue Jays in part because of the season-ending injury to Devon Travis‘ shoulder. Travis’ shoulder injury wasn’t healed in time for spring training, so the Blue Jays brought Barney back on a one year, 1.05 million contract.
The 2012 NL Gold Glove winner provided solid defence at 2nd, 3rd and shortstop, and gave an unexpected spark to the offence as well. The veteran had spent parts of the last nine seasons with the Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers before arriving in Toronto.
Barney was brought back as a depth piece in the infield with the assumption that Ryan Goins would be the majority starter at second to begin the season. However, Goins struggled greatly with the bat, which led to more opportunities for Barney. He was able to capitalize on the extra at-bats, hitting .286/.355/.393 in April in 28 at bats, and then ramped it up in May to the tune of .339/.350/.479 in 59 at bats.
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Known far more for his glove than his bat, Barney’s unexpected contributions were a welcome surprise, especially paired with his strong defence. He cooled off the rest of the way and finished with a season line of .269/.322/.373 including four home runs, 19 RBI and 13 doubles in 279 at-bats, and a 1.8 bWAR (1.5 fWAR).
Covering for Travis was significant playing 38 games at second, but he also played 23 at third, 23 at shortstop and even four games in left field. His versatility was greatly needed and with the injury histories of Travis, and shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, it’s very possible the Blue Jays will bring him back as a depth piece in 2017.
Barney was not expected to hit the way he did through the first two months of the season, so it’s hard to be critical of him coming back to earth on offence. He sports a career .249/.292/.343 slash line, so he outperformed his norms across the board in 2016. His second half line was .215/.279/.333, which brought his strong first half numbers down significantly.
If we’re going to pick on the guy, he only went 1-for-8 for a .125/.125/.125 line in the postseason, striking out three times in eight at-bats. Obviously that’s a small sample size, but as I said above, the “bad” for Barney was pretty few and far between, compared to expectations.
Now 31 years old, Darwin Barney will be arbitration eligible for the last time in 2017. The Blue Jays will likely look to retain him, but may choose to go with a cheaper alternative depending on his salary. He’s likely earned a raise from the 1.05 million he made last season, so the Blue Jays could potentially go with Ryan Goins as a utility man, or look to other internal options like Andy Burns, or even new acquisition Lourdes Guirriel Jr. if the payroll gets tight.
After spending most of 2015 in the minor leagues, Barney performed well enough to earn himself a major league job somewhere next year if the Blue Jays don’t retain him. With defensive versatility, a gold glove on his resume and a solid reputation there will be a suitor for him, it just may come later in the off-season.
Michael Saunders Ryan Goins Ezequiel Carrera Joe Biagini
Chris Colabello Aaron Loup Kevin Pillar Melvin Upton Jr.
Justin Smoak Francisco Liriano Ryan Tepera Devon Travis
J.A. Happ Roberto Osuna Marcus Stroman Jason Grilli
Aaron Sanchez Dalton Pompey Marco Estrada Brett Cecil
Dioner Navarro Russell Martin