Blue Jays: Utility fielder in 2018- Barney or Goins?

TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 11: Darwin Barney
TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 11: Darwin Barney /

The Blue Jays will have plenty of decisions to make this offseason, including whether or not they bring back one or both of their utility tandem of Ryan Goins and Darwin Barney.

One of the biggest achilles heels for the Blue Jays this season was the health of their middle infield. Troy Tulowitzki and Devon Travis combined to play just 116 games between them, which meant we had a healthy dose of organizational depth. That list was headlined by Ryan Goins and Darwin Barney, but also included the likes of Rob Refsnyder, Chris Coghlan, Richard Urena, and more.

The Blue Jays are set to return Tulowitzki and Travis in 2018, assuming they can both get healthy in time for spring training, which is expected. However, the Blue Jays would be foolish to expect the duo to avoid the DL for an entire campaign, especially based on recent history. Tulo has been known as an injury prone player for a few years and isn’t getting any younger at 33. Travis is immensely talented, but has had a season ending injury in each of the last three seasons, dealing with a variety of shoulder and knee ailments.

With that in mind, the Blue Jays’ front office would be foolish not to have backup plans, and the answers could come from several familiar sources. Urena has impressed in his cameo in September, and could serve as valuable organizational depth next season, ready to be recalled in the event of an injury. The Blue Jays also have Lourdes Gourriel Jr. who is knocking on the door of being ready, and has been used all over the diamond throughout his minor league stints as well, and could play either short of second.

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Where it’ll get interesting is if the Blue Jays decide to bring back the players they used the most often this year. Goins and Barney have been the regular starters for the majority of the season, in particular during the second half. The duo have combined to play 265 games as of this writing, and that’s a number that will need to come from somewhere in 2018. Hopefully Tulo and Travis will be able to cover the majority of those games, but again, that’s tough to rely on at this point.

Barney made 2.887,500 this season and the free agent could sign with any team five days after the World Series has concluded. That said, he’d been a good fit the Blue Jays, and a valued member of the roster, despite some frustration some facets of the fanbase. Whether you like him or not, his versatility and ability with the glove have been valuable, especially in the face of so many injuries in their middle infield. With other options making their way up the pipeline, it’s possible he moves on to another team, but don’t be shocked if the Blue Jays at least discuss a return with him.

For Goins, his contract situation will get interesting in the next few years, as he enters his first time through arbitration this offseason. The Blue Jays have three years of control remaining, but whether or not he sticks around will depend on a few things. They’ll have to settle on a contract first, which shouldn’t be too cumbersome after he made $548,200 in 2017, but he will be due a raise. Secondly, Goins has expressed a strong desire to find a starting job somewhere, and may not be satisfied with waiting around for one of Travis or Tulowitzki to get hurt, as he has the last number of years. He could be a non-tender candidate depending on how the tone of those talks goes either before, or during arbitration.

But third, the Blue Jays will have to decide how they want to use their bench in 2018 and beyond, and there’s a good chance there won’t be room for two middle infielders. It was easy to carry both Goins and Barney this year with the injuries to the roster, but if you recall, Goins very nearly missed on making the team out of spring training. The team elected to keep him over Melvin Upton, which likely turned out for the best given the amount of games Goins was needed for this year.

Depending on what they do this offseason, they may elect to carry two outfielders next year, especially if Teoscar Hernandez makes the team out of spring training. If that’s the case, they’ll only have room for one infielder with the obvious need for a back-up catcher as well to fill out the four man bench. If the team wants to retain Barney, or give the job to Urena or Gurriel, then there won’t be any room for Goins, who doesn’t seem willing to accept a minor league assignment at this point, and would need to clear waivers in order to do so anyway.

So while this week has been about saying goodbye to Jose Bautista, there’s a good chance that it’s the end of the line for Ryan Goins, Darwin Barney, or both with the Blue Jays as well. The team may elect to retain one of them for next season, but I would be surprised if they’re both in a Blue Jays uniform in 2018 again.

Next: Blue Jays have plenty of MiLB cautionary tales