Dodgers Should Consider Selling High on Austin Barnes

CINCINNATI, OH - JUNE 18: Kenley Jansen
CINCINNATI, OH - JUNE 18: Kenley Jansen /

Austin Barnes has filled the backup catcher role admirably for the Dodgers. But has he done too well?

Austin Scott Barnes, the Rolls-Royce of backup catchers. It’s an embarrassment of riches for the Dodgers. Honestly, at this point, they should be ashamed. The Blue are dripping in gold.

What backup catcher provides you with good defense (.2 dWAR in a backup role), speed and profound versatility, (four SB and originally a 2nd baseman), power (five HR in a little more than 100 AB’s) and an OPS greater than .900? Nobody, that’s who.

Oh, and the dude is clutch, with his 1.000 OPS with runners in scoring position. With more than half the season having already expired, it’s not exactly a small sample size at this point. In just about any and every situation, Barnes has exceeded expectations and then some.

With Grandal proving to be one of the better catchers in baseball himself, one has to wonder if Barnes is just too good to keep sitting on the bench 60% of the time. I mean it’s an incredible luxury, but can the Dodgers flip Barnes for an area of greater need?

I’ll state the obvious by saying that I love the way Barnes plays the game. The numbers love him. His batting splits are pretty foolproof. He seems like a genuinely good guy. When you see a player succeed after so much time and hard work in the minors, it just brings a smile to your face. In fact, the only thing that would hurt more than seeing Barnes traded would be failing to advance to the World Series again.

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To his credit, Dave Roberts has found a way to get Barnes a bit more playing time as of late. However, one still can’t help but feel that his prime is being squandered in a reserve role. Besides, playing your backup catcher too frequently is inherently a bit risky. And, while seemingly impenetrable of late, the Dodgers are still clearly in need of another good starter and a lefty reliever.

You know how much the Dodgers hate trading their highly-touted prospects. Jose De Leon is the only major prospect this front office has moved. Given their affinity for blue-chippers, I have a hard time seeing the front office moving names like Walker Buehler or Alex Verdugo.

That’s where Barnes comes in. Perhaps he could be packaged as a piece in a deal for that legit righty starter it seems the team could use come postseason time? Sonny Gray? Chris Archer? Kate Upton’s fiance? One of those names would serve well behind Clayton Kershaw and Alex Wood in a playoff series. Especially so if an injury occurs or Brandon McCarthy’s least favorite four letter word returns.

Behind Barnes and Grandal, Los Angeles possesses, even more, quality catching depth in the farm in Kyle Farmer, Keibert Ruiz, and defensive wiz Will Smith. Add in Barnes, a couple of the Dodgers’ gazillion solid mid-tier pitching prospects, and the team possibly taking on incoming salary, LAD could find that shiny new deadline acquisition you know they are searching for about now.

Let’s be honest, Barnes probably profiles as a slightly-above-average starting catcher who won’t have an OPS over .900 the rest of his career. As that ever-elusive World Series appearance hovers around, closer in their grasps than any time in the last three decades, it’s time to sell high.

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With Barnes’ emergence, they can improve their team significantly without giving up any of their top-tier talents. In other words, they can have their cake and eat it too. Dem Bums: gluttonous depth, embarrassingly large amounts of flexibility. It’s shameful really.