Darwin Barney, other Cubs not thrilled by trade rumors
BY GORDON WITTENMYER email@example.com June 22, 2012 11:30PM
Darwin Barney wants to be part of the Cubs’ core going forward but knows that trades happen. | John J. Kim~Sun-Times
Updated: July 24, 2012 9:51AM
PHOENIX — The Cubs have made it clear they consider Starlin Castro and Jeff Samardzija building blocks for their ground-up renaissance and don’t intend to make them available in trade talks over the next month.
They’ve made it just as clear they intend to trade Ryan Dempster by the July 31 non-waiver deadline, along with veterans such as Alfonso Soriano, Geovany Soto and Carlos Marmol if they can find takers.
But what about the guys in the middle? Hold on tight the next few weeks.
Darwin Barney, the Cubs’ second-year starting second baseman, found his name among published trade rumors the other day and had fun trying to parse the language used in the report to determine how serious the rumor might be.
All it really said was that other teams have shown interest in him, which isn’t surprising considering his contract level, decent bat, an uptick in gap power this year and strong defensive play that one American League evaluator mentioned first after raising Barney’s name unsolicited.
‘‘It’s almost funny to read some of the stuff because it’s so frequent,’’ Barney said of trade rumors that have circled the Cubs like vultures since May. ‘‘But it’s just part of the game, and it’s part of being on a team that’s not necessarily in contention at this time of the year.’’
As flattering as it might seem to read that other teams are interested, Barney doesn’t see it that way.
‘‘If anything, it just creates an unknown,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s not necessarily an anxiety, but it’s just a feeling of what-if. But that goes away really fast because you go to the cage, start working, getting ready for your day, and it just feels like it couldn’t happen. Until it does.’’
He laughs a little at that.
‘‘You just never know,’’ he said. ‘‘You have a job to do, and that’s what’s first and foremost, and that’s what we all focus on.’’
Barney is just one of the many Cubs finding his name in rumors these days. He’s also one of the many tweener-status guys on the roster — club-controlled players young enough to become parts of the Cubs’ next-generation contender but not so young or so All-Star-upside to be considered slam-dunk parts of the next core.
Manager Dale Sveum said he thinks Barney can be part of that.
‘‘Because of his defense, which he already does, I think he’s just a few mechanical things away from being a pretty darn good hitter in the big leagues, too,’’ Sveum said of a guy who took a .270 career average into Friday night’s game against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Guys such as Tony Campana, James Russell and Travis Wood want to be part of the big things most players in the clubhouse say they see coming.
‘‘All of us like the direction we’re headed in,’’ Barney said. ‘‘We like the vision that [the front office has]. So I don’t think there’s anyone in this clubhouse that wants to leave. I don’t think there’s anyone that really would be happy if they got traded. That’s just not the way you play the game.
‘‘I’m proud to be drafted by the Cubs and be able to be in the big leagues with Chicago. And I feel like it’d be a sad day if I ever had to go. But I think that’s the way a lot of guys feel. We all want to be here for that.’’
That was an opportunity that excited Barney before Theo Epstein was even on the Chicago radar screen. His background as a high school champion and two-time NCAA champion with Oregon State is something Cubs officials always considered no accident when looking at his makeup and intangibles.
And it’s something Barney took into his own Cubs vision when he was drafted.
‘‘Just being in the Cubs’ organization, you have an opportunity to do something special in sports,’’ he said. ‘‘And if you can bring a championship to Chicago, I mean, there’s nothing more special than that.’’
That’s why he sees no flattery in the trade rumors and just keeps his mind on the job at hand while understanding no has control over rumors — or actual trades — until free agency, anyway.
‘‘Until then, it’s not really worth worrying about,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s fun to joke about.’’