Until the other day, Chicago Cubs top prospect Javier Baez hadn’t played second base since his freshman year of high school. It could soon be the position that he’s playing every day in the major leagues. After yet another mammoth home run in spring training, one that traveled a total of over 500 feet, the watch on when Baez will be playing at Wrigley Field is as hot as ever.
Due largely in part to issues with Baez being under team control for one less year if he makes the team out of spring training, the power hitting middle infielder is more than likely to start the season at Triple-A. However, if the Cubs were planning to contend this year, he would be the team’s Opening Day second baseman; he’s proven this spring that he’s more than ready for major league pitching.
The soft-hitting, stellar fielding Darwin Barney will likely claim the starting second base job out of spring training, but in a best-case scenario for the Cubs, his days with the team will be numbered. This spring training, Barney has shown improvement at the plate by driving the ball to all fields and knocking several extra-base hits. Should that production continue during the regular season, he would be a perfect trade piece for the Cubs.
With pitcher Jason Hammel and outfielder Nate Schierholtz already expected to be trade pieces at the deadline, adding Barney to that mix could net the Cubs an even greater return of more prospects. This deadline, the Cubs will likely be looking for pitching as they lack pitching depth as an organization and hitting is plentiful in their minor league system.
By betting on Barney to have a bounce-back season and trading him at his highest value, the Cubs could add more value to their team for when they would like to be contending. Surely, a contender will overpay for Barney if necessary, and like with pitcher Matt Garza last season, the Cubs could be the beneficiaries of that desperation.
After moving Barney, the Cubs would have to find someone to fill his shoes at second base. While there’s a chance that utility man Emilio Bonifacio could step into that role, the more exciting scenario for the Cubs would be to give Baez a taste of the big leagues. By calling him up early enough that he gets significant time at the major league level but not with enough time to feel great pressure during the season, he could be allowed to take the next step in his professional development.
So many times teams rush their “future stars” to the pros and those prospects struggle and stunt their growth. The Cubs have seemingly waited the perfect amount of time with Baez, and if it weren’t for financial constraints, he would likely be with the Cubs when they take on the Pittsburgh Pirates on Opening Day. There’s no need for Cubs Nation to worry, though; help is on the way. Baez is only the first ripple in a giant wave of talent soon headed to Chicago.