An Ode to Darwin Barney
It has become official. Darwin Barney is no longer a Cub. On Monday, the second baseman was dealt to the Los Angeles Dodgers with a cash consideration for a Player to be Named Later. The Cubs had only a few days left to trade their third longest tenured Cub after designating him for assignment last week. After the trade became official, I figured I would do a tribute to Barney’s time with the Cubs organization. Before this, I’ll make a few notes. I completely agree with and understand the DFA and trade. This isn’t a, “OMG! Epstink is terrible!!” piece, I promise. This is purely a final ode to the Cubs life of Darwin Barney.
In the 2007 draft, the Cubs had the third pick in the fourth round, number 127 overall. The Royals had the pick before the Cubs and they selected Mitch Hodge, who never made it past Low A. With their selection, the Cubs took a shortstop from Oregon State University, fresh off of back to back national titles. On June 7th, Darwin James Kunane Barney was a Cub. He signed on July 9th and was ready to get back on the field.
Barney started his Cubs career in Arizona in the Rookie League. He only played 5 games and was ready for a new challenge. The shortstop hit .444 (8-18) with three doubles to go along with a .545 OBP and a 1.157 OPS. He moved to Low A Peoria to finish his first pro season. In 44 games, Barney hit .273/.313/.392 with nine doubles and 27 runs scored. In the field, he made eight errors in 165 chances at short in those 44 games. Was he ready for High A Daytona after just 49 games in pro ball? Apparently he was, as he was promoted to start the 2008 season. Barney spent all year in Daytona, playing shortstop for 123 games. In his first full pro season, Darwin didn’t blow anyone away with the bat, as he hit .262/.325/.357 with 107 hits, 22 doubles, and 46 runs scored while making 21 errors at short in 565 chances.
Going into the 2009 season, the fast moving Barney found his way onto the AA Tennessee roster. The shortstop played in 74 games with the Smokies, hitting a career high .317 with an OPS of .769. 12 more doubles for the former OSU Beaver and 30 runs scored as Barney was one step closer to the big leagues after being promoted to AAA Iowa mid-season. He spent the rest of 2009 and the majority of 2010 with the I-Cubs. Barney played 177 games during that span with Iowa, compiling 199 hits, 36 doubles, and scoring 97 runs. On August 12th, 2010, the dream was realized.
Barney made his major league debut by being a defensive replacement at second base in San Francisco that night. The next night, he started for the first time, batting seventh and playing second base in St. Louis against the Cardinals. Barney went 0-4, but did not strikeout and did not make an error in the Cubs 6-3 loss. From that point on, Darwin Barney was the second baseman of the Cubs future. In 2011, Barney moved permanently to second base, playing 143 games that year and hitting like a key piece to the Cubs future plans. The second baseman hit .276/.313/.353 in 2011 compiling 146 hits, 23 doubles, scoring 66 runs, and driving in 43, while putting together a 1.7 WAR season. He did make 12 errors in 135 games a second, but it was still an adjusting period. None of us, however, could possibly imagine what he was going to do in 2012.
Darwin Barney cemented himself as one of the best defensive players in baseball in 2012. He played in a career high 156 games, all but one of which was at second. Incredibly, he posted a .997 fielding percentage, while only making two (!!) errors in 731 chances at second base. He was honored at the end of the year with the Gold Glove at second, beating out the Reds’ Brandon Phillips for the honor. Oh, and he didn’t hit terrible in 2012, but nothing compared to his defensive value (you see a theme developing). Barney hit .254/.288/.354 in that season, with 139 hits and 26 doubles, along with a career high seven home runs and compiling a 4.6 WAR season, largely in part to his defense. In 2013, however, the downfall began.
In 144 games in 2013, Barney only hit a measly .208 with a .569 OPS. He did hit seven home runs, matching a career high, but only had a total of 104 hits in those 144 games. The defense was there, again, but a .993 fielding percentage wasn’t good enough to win his second straight Gold Glove. Barney’s WAR fell from 4.6 in 2012 to -0.5 in 2013. His struggles continued, as Barney had a combination of lack of hitting, .230 with a .593 OPS in 72 games, and young prospects coming up to diminish his role on the team. As he left for paternity leave on August 9th, Arismendy Alcantara took his spot on the roster. Barney only played two games after coming back and was DFA’d by the Cubs on July 22nd.
The Darwin Barney era in Chicago will always be remembered, whether it was for his unbelievable plays at second or his inability to get a big hit when the Cubs needed it. I’ll always have a spot for Darwin in my Cubs history books. He was one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met, but unfortunately a good thing can’t last forever.