By Danny Gallagher
Canadian Baseball Network
Darwin Barney has slipped quietly out of salary arbitration into free agency without many people knowing.
Sometimes, it's good to be a free agent. Sometimes, it's not so good.
The gravy train of arbitration is often more lucrative than free agency, especially if you are a part-timer like Barney.
His future with the Blue Jays is murky at best and he may be playing elsewhere next season. He was a solid platoon infielder the last two seasons but he may not be part of the team's mix in 2018. He hit .232 with six homers and 25 RBI this past season.
Whether Barney earns more in free agency than arbitration is anyone's guess. He earned a healthy $2.877-million this past season in his final season of arbitration. The way he joined the Jays was somewhat peculiar. Although he would normally have been eligible for arbitration in 2016, he was non-tendered by the Jays at the deadline in December, 2015 because the team didn't want to pay him close to $3-million. He had been acquired from the Dodgers during the 2015 season when he was paid $2.525-million.
So most people figured he wouldn't be back in Toronto for 2016. But the Jays pulled off a surprise and brought Barney back at a much lower salary of $1.05-million as a non-tendered free agent. Following the 2016 season, the Jays decided to keep Barney and tendered him a contract. This time, he was back up where he belonged money-wise -- near $3-million.
Whether the Jays will want to bring him back is unknown. He's not a priority but he would have noticed the $2.4-million salary signed a few days ago by part-time infielder Eric Sogard of the Milwaukee Brewers. Sogard is similar to Barney in that he doesn't play much and his stats are not far off. He batted .273 with three homers and 18 RBI.
The Brewers also did a deal with arbitration-eligible pitcher Chase Anderson and it could be the barometer of the kind of money Marcus Stroman of the Jays will get. Anderson agreed to a two-year deal worth a guaranteed $11.75 milion, including a $1-million signing bonus. He also got two option years tacked on for 2020-21.
Anderson and Stroman have similar career numbers: Anderson is 36-28 and Stroman is 37-25. In a one-year deal, Stroman will likely get at least $5-million in arbitration but it will be interesting to see if Stroman and management can iron out a multi-year deal.
Other Blue Jays' free agents besides Barney are Jose Bautista, Brett Anderson, Miguel Montero and Michael Saunders.