The Chicago Cubs avoided arbitration with second baseman Darwin Barney on Thursday, agreeing to a 1-year deal worth $2.3 million, the team announced.
The figure is the exact midpoint between the number the team ($1.8 million) and Barney’s agent ($2.8 million) exchanged as they prepared for their arbitration hearing, but that will no longer be necessary as Barney is officially in the fold for 2014.
The deal means that pitcher Jeff Samardzija is the only Cubs player remaining on the arbitration list, and if the two sides can’t bridge the $1.8 million gap that exists between the figures they submitted, then their case will be heard by an arbitrator.
Barney is a Gold Glove-winning defender (and a finalist in 2013 as well), but his bat has been the subject of ridicule and contempt from Cubs fans. In 2013, Barney only batted .208, with seven home runs and 41 RBI. He had an abysmally bad on-base percentage as well, only getting on base at a .266 clip.
The forecast for 2014 for Barney isn’t much better, as Baseball Prospectus is only projecting him to hit a modest .250, with an OBP of .294. His power numbers are projected to stay the same, and his Wins Above Replacement Player, which was at -1.8 last season, is projected to improve by two wins to a whopping 0.8.
Even with all of those offensive woes in mind, it makes sense that the Cubs would retain Barney’s services for another year. Yes, even putting him in the eighth spot in the order means that the Cubs essentially cede two batters to opponents every time they go through the order, but the fact of the matter is that Barney is merely a placeholder for a guy who will be coming through the system and debuting in the majors within the next year or two.
Whether it’s Javier Baez, Starlin Castro, or Arismendy Alcantara, there are plenty of options to replace Barney’s bat in the lineup in 2015 or 2016, but for the 2014 season, he’s simply the best option they have at this point. His glove will save some of the runs that his bat will cost the team, but despite the discrepancy, it’s a move that the Cubs organization was right to make.