The Chicago Cubs second baseman the past three years has been Darwin Barney, and although he has been a drain offensively, Barney has been valuable due to his elite defense at the keystone. Despite an abysmal line of .208/.266/.303 last year, Barney was still worth 0.4 Wins Above Replacement due to his Gold Glove defense. After winning the Gold Glove in 2012, Barney relinquished the award to Brandon Phillips in 2013 despite Barney’s continued defensive superiority. So if Barney is a Gold Glove caliber defender, then why would the Cubs consider supplanting him at second base?
As a subpar offensive team, a player like Darwin Barney is a luxury the Cubs cannot afford. Even if the Cubs could live with the offensive black hole of Barney in the lineup, top prospect Arismendy Alcantara may be ready to take over second base as soon as this season. In his first full season at Double-A, Alcantara produced 15 home runs and 31 stolen bases in 133 games played. His full line was .271/.352/.451 with a 10.9 percent walk rate and a surprisingly powerful .180 ISO. The switch-hitting Alcantara has been called Jose Reyes-lite and his combination of power, speed and on-base skills would be ideal at the top of the Cubs lineup. Alcantara also possesses the athleticism to develop into an above average defender at second base. Making the move from shortstop to second base last year was a smooth transition for Alcantara as scouts thought he looked much more comfortable at his new position. The question is when will he finally take the field for the Cubs?
It is a pipe dream to think that Alcantara can win the second base job out of spring training, but it is not completely out of the realm of possibility. The best case scenario with the most realistic chance of happening is that Alcantara excels this spring and parlays his momentum into a hot start at Triple-A Iowa. If Alcantara can prove in April that he is ready for the Major Leagues, the Cubs may be able to trade Barney to a team that can afford a downgrade on offense for a large upgrade on defense.