To this day, many people still think the Dodgers made a mistake by trading All-Star second baseman Dee Gordon to the Miami Marlins, basically for Howie Kendrick. Gordon went on to win a Gold Glove Award and Silver Slugger last season as well as the batting title. What most people forget is that Howie Kendrick was not the only player that the Dodgers received in the deal.
The Dodgers also acquired three other players in the deal, two of which have already made significant contributions. Chris Hatcher was a big part of the Dodgers bullpen last season and looks to do the same this year. Kike Hernandez played a crucial role in the Dodgers winning their third straight division title by taking over in center field for a struggling Joc Pederson.
The third player the Dodgers acquired in the trade, Austin Barnes, could end up being the most valuable in 2016. Entering his age 26 season, Barnes has proven he is major league ready during spring training with 4 home runs as well as a .375/.483/.875 slash line. He also leads the team in runs scored (7), RBI (8), and walks (5). He has played so well that he is not only making a case to be on the 25-man roster, he is even making a case to take over as the #2 catcher over veteran AJ Ellis.
Although Barnes is not a proven player by any means, he clearly has much more potential than the aging AJ Ellis. Entering his age 35 season, Ellis has a career .241 batting average and has hit only .214 over the last two seasons. He has also combined for only 10 home runs and 46 RBI in that same time span. He has been Clayton Kershaw’s personal catcher during that time, but rookie manager Dave Roberts has made it clear that those days are over.
Even if Barnes does not take over as the #2 catcher, he brings much more value to the team than just his catching abilities. Barnes also plays second base and even has got some time at third base. In fact, Barnes played 151 games at second base in the minors over the past two seasons. Although the Dodgers are considered one of the deepest teams in baseball already, it never hurts to have a player on the team that plays multiple positions, especially when one of those positions is catcher.
Injuries are inevitable for every team and the Dodgers have already suffered their fair share before the season has begun. Included on the list of injured players are second baseman Howie Kendrick, third baseman Justin Turner, and catcher Yasmani Grandal, all positions that Barnes can play. Although Grandal’s injury is only a bruised right forearm and he is expected to return this week, he has already shown signs of being injury-prone in his young career. Grandal disputes this as he had this to say about his injuries:
“A lot of times I’ve been put as this guy who gets hurt all the time, where my injuries have been caused by something else and it hasn’t been my body breaking down. It hasn’t been that I haven’t been healthy, it’s just one of those things.”
Grandal has landed on the disabled list multiple times in his career and has had multiple surgeries, the most notable being repairing a torn ACL and MCL in 2013. He also had surgery this offseason on his left shoulder to repair his left AC joint. Dodgers fans hope that the 2015 All-Star can stay healthy and become a mainstay in the Dodgers lineup, but having a player like Barnes around just in case would be a great idea.
Watch for Austin Barnes to make a huge impact this season and show why the Dodgers front office knew exactly what they were doing when they traded Dee Gordon to the Marlins.