The Toronto Blue Jays moved quickly to fill the hole created by the injury to Troy Tulowitzki, picking up middle infielder Darwin Barney from the Los Angeles Dodgers early Sunday morning for a player to be named later or cash.
Barney will be activated for the finale of the four-game series in the Bronx as the Blue Jays look to sweep away the Yankees and move 5.5 games ahead in the AL East.
The 29-year-old arrives with a sterling defensive reputation — some believe he’s an even better defensive second baseman than Ryan Goins, who will be moving to shortstop to cover the absence of Tulowitzki. The Blue Jays’ star shortstop suffered a small crack in his left shoulder blade in an outfield collision with Kevin Pillar in the second inning of the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader sweep.
Barney spent most of this season with the Dodgers’ triple-A farm club in Oklahoma City, where he hit .277/.325/.354. In parts of six major-league seasons (three as an everyday player) he has hit .245/.293/.336. Against lefties, the right-handed bat has a career .263/.318/.374 mark, the OPS being almost 100 points higher than it is against righties.
Clearly, Barney isn't a Blue Jay because of his bat. It's almost impossible to make a mid-September trade that gives a team an offensive boost, anyway. What he's with the Blue Jays to do is, quite probably, share time at second base with Cliff Pennington, help maintain the Blue Jays' elite-level middle-of-the-diamond defence and provide depth in case they should lose anybody else over the season's final 20 games.
Much like the addition of Pennington was a month ago, Barney comes over to be another major-league middle infielder the Blue Jays can use down the stretch so they don't have to rely too much on the Munenori Kawasakis of the world. Not to besmirch the good name of Kawasaki, he's a reasonable fill-in and can hold his own over a short span. The truth is, if Tulowitzki can't make it back, he's a good bet to be on the post-season roster. But the more quality big-leaguers a team has who are elite at one skill, the better off that team is. By many reports, Barney's defence at second base is off the charts.
Since he was acquired in the month of September, Barney won't be eligible for the playoffs no matter what, much like late adds Bud Black in 1990 (when the Jays were eliminated on the season's final day) and Dave Parker in 1991 (when the Jays won their first of three straight AL East titles). But he'll be on board to lend a helping hand, or more likely a helping glove, until then.
And it is the glove the Blue Jays need to replace more than anything. It's a wash at shortstop, as Goins is every bit the shortstop Tulowitzki is. The bat? Not so much. The Jays are 32-9 since acquiring Tulowitzki despite the former Colorado Rockie having posted a .232/.314/.368 line in the batters' box. We knew the bat was going to come around eventually, and when it did Tulowitzki would have become that much more incredible a weapon, but it hadn't yet, so all the Jays need to replace is that defence and hope they can have a bat that provides somewhere close to that .682 OPS.
It's likely Pennington and Barney can do that, and it seems Barney can handle the glove work at second base. As Pennington has recently proven as well, he's no slouch himself.