Barnes, after having agreed to a previous two-year extension back in 2020, was set to become a free agent after this season. On this new deal, he got a $2.7 million raise ($7 million total with incentives) from his last one and figures to be fully entrenched as the backup with starter Will Smith in town through 2026.
Last season, the Dodgers traded top catching prospect Keibert Ruiz to the Washington Nationals in the Trea Turner/Max Scherzer blockbuster, which seemingly paved the way for younger catching prospect, Diego Cartaya, to be next in line to hit the MLB ranks.
Though it was believed Cartaya could be a fast riser, he’s still only at High-A and has just 23 games under his belt there. He should be at Double-A before the year ends, but that means, at best, he should be in MLB by mid-2023, assuming he rockets through the upper levels.
It’s possible, but it’s wishful thinking. So many prospects dominate the low levels before hitting snags when the competition gets tougher. At the same time, even if he is a fast-riser and gets to the bigs quicker than expected, Barnes will be a premier trade chip given the need for above-average catching across the league.
This was simply an act of foresight by Andrew Friedman that only helps the Dodgers as it insures them against a Cartaya regression or provides them with another asset. Plus, it checks off another box for free agency this offseason. Now there’s no need to search for a backup catcher, which is an essential roster piece.
Austin Barnes’ contract extension is only good for the Dodgers
Not everything goes according to plan, don’t forget that! In fact, a few days ago, Cartaya had to leave a game in the middle of an at-bat due to a hand injury. That was the last contest he appeared in and it’s unclear how much longer he’ll be out (if at all).
All the Barnes deal really tells us is that 1) Will Smith is the team’s starting catcher and it will remain that way unless something drastic happens and 2) the Dodgers value continuity, reliable defense, and veteran leadership behind the dish. Can’t blame them! Look how good the pitching staff as a whole has been since 2015 (Barnes was backup and Yasmani Grandal/Smith have been the starters since then).
Lastly, this is a smart move to actually take pressure off Cartaya, who is the Dodgers’ No. 1-ranked prospect and No. 15 overall in MLB (according to MLB.com). No need to place unreasonable expectations on a 20-year-old, right?
Oh yeah, and it always helps when your backup catcher at the MLB level can play some second base when you’re in a pinch. When all is said and done, Barnes might be a Dodger for a full decade. Crazy to think about.