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Salary arbitration preview 2015: Darwin Barney

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Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

We started our look at arbitration-eligible Dodgers with catcher A.J. Ellis on Monday, and today we take a look at infielder Darwin Barney.

The Dodgers acquired Barney from the Cubs on July 28, and the reserve infielder performed well the rest of the way. In 22 games with Los Angeles, Barney was 10-for-33 (.303) with a home run, a double and eight walks in 45 plate appearances (a .467 on-base percentage), one fewer walk than he had in 217 plate appearances in 2014 with Chicago.

On the season Barney hit .241/.300/.342, right in line with his career .246/.294/.336 mark in parts of five seasons.

The 2012 National League Gold Glove Award winner even played two games for the Dodgers at shortstop, a position he hasn't played regularly since 2010 in the minor leagues. Whether Barney can play shortstop at least semi-regularly will go a long way in determining his value, and if he has a roster spot on the Dodgers going forward.

Barney made $2.3 million in 2014, his first year of salary arbitration eligibility. Here is a look at some infielders in the last few years with between roughly similar service time to Barney, and their career numbers:

Comparable arbitration-eligible infielders (career)
Infielder Years Svc Time PA BA/OBP/SLG OPS+ wOBA wRC+ rWAR fWAR Salary
Darwin Barney
2009-2014 4.053 2,061 .246/.294/.336 72 .279 70 7.9 6.3 tbd
Gordon Beckham 2009-2013 4.123 2,475 .249/.314/.380 85 .308 86 5.6 5.4 $4,175,000
Daniel Murphy 2008-2013 4.109 2,439 .290/.333/.424 108 .329 108 8.9 9.0 $5,700,000
Mike Aviles 2008-2012 4.091 1,871 .277/.308/.408 92 .312 89 8.0 6.3 $1,750,000*
Jed Lowrie 2008-2012 4.111 1,307 .250/.326/.417 97 .326 98 5.3 5.8 $2,400,000
Alberto Callaspo 2006-2011 4.135 2,208 .281/.337/.389 97 .320 94 7.2 7.0 $3,150,000
Martin Prado 2006-2011 4.105 2,109 .293/.341/.434 108 .340 109 10.7 8.6 $4,750,000
*Part of two-year contract, signing bonus spread over both years of deal

It's hard simply comparing career numbers with Barney, especially if his role going forward won't be that of a starter, the role he had for 3½ seasons with the Cubs. Here are the same players, looking at their season heading into arbitration with four years of service time, with a look at the salary increase year to year.

Single-season arbitration-eligible infielders
Infielder Year PA BA/OBP/SLG OPS+ wOBA wRC+ rWAR fWAR Salaryn-1 Salary Increase
Darwin Barney
2014 262 .241/.300/.342 79 .285 78 1.7 1.1 $2,300,000 tbd tbd
Gordon Beckham 2013 408 .267/.322/.372 89 .306 88 0.8 1.0 $2,975,000 $4,175,000 +40.3%
Daniel Murphy
2013 697 .286/.319/.415 108 .320 107 1.5 3.0 $2,925,000 $5,700,000 +94.9%
Mike Aviles
2012 546 .250/.282/.381 77 .288 75 2.5 1.5 $1,200,000 $1,750,000* +45.8%
Jed Lowrie
2012 387 .244/.331/.438 107 .336 110 2.0 2.5 $1,150,000 $2,400,000 +108.7%
Alberto Callaspo 2011 536 .288/.366/.375 112 .328 109 3.4 3.5 $2,000,000 $3,150,000 +57.5%
Martin Prado 2011 590 .260/.302/.385 87 .302 89 1.8 1.3 $3,100,000 $4,750,000 +53.2%
*Part of two-year contract, signing bonus spread over both years of deal

Upon quick review, it seems like hitting gets rewarded more than overall value, with Lowrie and Murphy roughly doubling their salaries after solid offensive seasons. Barney compares well, both in career and single seasons with Beckham and Aviles, which would seem to suggest something like a 40-percent raise for Barney.

But that gets back to Barney's role with the Dodgers. He has enough value on defense alone to easily justify a salary of just over $3.2 million (a 40-percent raise), but that's if he plays. That's where the Dec. 2 deadline to tender 2015 contracts comes into play.

If the Dodgers see Barney as a reserve, they can try to negotiate a smaller contract with him than he might get through arbitration, which may or may not be more than what he could garner on the open market.

There are a few factors that I think will keep Barney in Los Angeles, at the very least heading into spring training.

Options

Barney has three option years remaining, so even as a slightly expensive insurance policy for Dee Gordon, he is worth keeping around in the minors as depth, again likely on defense alone.

No guarantees

Arbitration contracts aren't by default guaranteed, so even signing Barney for $3 million wouldn't necessarily put the Dodgers on the hook for the entire amount. If the team, for example, signs Barney for $3 million and cuts him on or before March 19, they would owe him 30 days termination pay, or $491,803. If they wait to cut him until later in spring training, the termination pay increases to 45 days, or $737,705.

Depth

It seems absurd to think the Dodgers won't add someone to try to replace Hanley Ramirez at shortstop. But no matter who they bring in, having Barney in the infield mix with Miguel Rojas and Erisbel Arruebarrena as the backup plan is a lot more comforting than the other two alone.

2015 guess

MLB Trade Rumors projected a salary of $2.5 million for Barney in 2015.

I think the Dodgers try to work out a deal with Barney before next week's tender deadline, and while a 40-percent raise for an unknown role doesn't seem feasible, I'll guess a smaller raise, to $2.6 million (13 percent).