Blue Jays ink Barney to one-year pact
TORONTO -- The Blue Jays officially signed infielder Darwin Barney to a one-year contract worth $1.05 million on Friday morning.
The two sides agreed to terms earlier this week, but Barney had to pass a physical before the deal could be announced. He is expected to begin the year as a backup infielder and possible platoon partner at second base with Ryan Goins.
Barney was acquired by the Blue Jays in September, appearing in 15 games, but he was not eligible for the postseason roster. During that brief time with the club, he made a good impression with his Gold Glove Award-caliber defense and surprising contributions with the bat.
Toronto had been searching for depth in the infield as regular starting second baseman Devon Travis is out until at least May following left shoulder surgery. Goins will receive the bulk of the playing time, but Barney is an option to start against lefties.
Barney is a career .246 hitter with a .294 on-base percentage over six seasons in the Major Leagues. In addition to second base, he also will be the primary backup at shortstop and third base.
Team president Mark Shapiro met with the media Wednesday afternoon, and while he didn't get into the specifics, he made it clear his team was on the verge of signing someone.
"Today was a good day, I think we made significant progress on filling one hole," Shapiro said. "It's hard to say there's progress until you have an announcement to make, but we did make significant progress on one hole.
"We're very active on another need, and we had some significant trade conversations today. There is no such thing as progress on a trade until it's complete, but interesting alternatives to examine as we look at how to improve the club moving forward. I would term it as a very active and constructive day."
Toronto remains in the market for at least a couple of relievers and more depth in the rotation.
• Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista are set to hit free agency at the end of the 2016 season, and it appears as though the Blue Jays will be hard-pressed to keep both players in the fold beyond next year. Toronto has expensive multiyear contracts with Russell Martin, Troy Tulowitzki, Marco Estrada and J.A. Happ to deal with, while the arbitration number for Josh Donaldson will continue to soar. Shapiro didn't rule out re-signing both Encarnacion and Bautista, but he did seem to admit it would be difficult.
"Theoretically, at the expense of other players, yes," Shapiro said when asked if they had enough money to sign both. "The question again gets back to what the team looks like around them if you do that. What are your revenues going to be? What will you payroll be? We don't have certainty on a lot of those things right now. I think as time goes on, we'll get more and more of those answers."
• Drew Hutchison had a disappointing 2015, but that shouldn't be entirely surprising according to Shapiro. He believes most young players hit a bump in the road before finding consistent success, and the Blue Jays are expecting a bounceback year. Hutchison will have to earn it every step of the way, though, because he'll enter Spring Training without a guaranteed job.
"Development is just not linear with young players," Shapiro said. "He was a guy who obviously was brought to the big leagues very quickly. And so for me, what I've seen, when 23-year-old guys come to the big leagues, you're going to get an immediate boost. Because they come up, no one knows them, they haven't been seen the way others have been seen, and they have good stuff.
"Then what happens is the league starts to see them, has all the intelligence that exists out there, from advanced reports to video, and some of the weaknesses ... For Hutch, I think it's just a maturity process."