Asking anyone to play second-fiddle to Will Smith is sort of a tall order, but Austin Barnes doesn't do it particularly well. He's been a longtime fixture in the Dodgers' clubhouse, traded from the Marlins in 2014 while he was in the minors for three players including Dee Strange-Gordon and, funnily enough, Miguel Rojas. The Dodgers might appreciate having a veteran so familiar with the organization behind Smith, who's a few years younger, and be fond of Barnes on a personal level, but it might be time for them to move on from him.
He only played in 59 games around Smith in 2023 and hit a paltry .180/.256/.242, some of the worst numbers of his career. His defensive numbers also suffered last year, with 11th percentile blocking and fifth in caught stealing above average. The team extended him for two years in 2022, with a club option for 2025. However, hot on his heels are both top prospects Dalton Rushing and Diego Cartaya, both of whom have invites to spring training this year (though, it should be noted that Cartaya's 2023 season in the minors was less than stellar and he fell off MLB Pipeline's top 100 prospects list this year).
If the Dodgers keep Barnes throughout the 2024 season, choosing not to exercise their club option for next season would be best for the team.