To say the Chicago Cubs have had "a few" problems in recent years (or 104 maybe?) is to say that the ocean is "pretty big." They are a team that has struggled in just about every aspect imaginable --pitching, hitting, defense, chemistry, clubhouse, scouting, management. With the Theo Epstein takeover, the excitement for the future has boiled over all season long. As the Anthony Rizzos move more and more into the spotlight, it's easy to forget about some of the areas where the Cubs have been particularly dreadful.
The last few years the defense has been atrocious. While there has clearly been a shift in the right direction this season, I think the Cubs ought to move quickly to secure the middle of their infield. While Castro is a defensive work in progress, Darwin Barney is a gold mine at second base. The Cubs signed Castro to a six-year contract earlier this year, thus securing him for the foreseeable future. While Barney may not turn into the offensive threat Castro can be, having consistency up the middle of the field is of dire importance when building a team. On a team that has had a recent history marred by terrible defense, that consistency is of further importance.
Barney has been a consistent bright spot on a team that hasn't had many. His record-setting defensive season has, rightfully so, made the headlines, but he has been a steady player all season --effort, attitude, decent offensive production. His offensive numbers aren't what counterparts Robinson Cano or Dustin Pedroia's are, but Barney's wins above replacement is a cool 3.4. Cano's is 1.7 and Pedroia's is 1.5. To play defense like Barney has this season is a huge bonus for any team.
I'm leery of long contracts. I always have been. That leeriness has cemented with the whole Alfonso Soriano fiasco over the last five years. However, I think as the Cubs continue their rebuilding, cornerstones are necessary. They already re-signed Castro and Rizzo seems to be on his way, so I'd like to see Barney get some long-term confidence thrown his way. I wouldn't look at anything beyond about four or five years, but that solidity in the infield would go a long way for the rebuilding of the Cubs. Further, any help that can be thrown Castro's way on defense should be seen as a welcome addition.
Brian is a lifelong Chicago Cubs fan, having lived in Illinois his entire life and having followed Major League Baseball throughout.Sources
- Sports & Recreation
- Chicago Cubs
- Darwin Barney