Austin Barnes has been the brunt of a lot of jokes over the past calendar year as a result of his underperformance. Once good enough to unseat Yasmani Grandal as the Dodgers’ starting catcher in the postseason, Barnes has now taken a back seat to Dodgers rookie Will Smith.
According to Jorge Castillo of the Los Angeles Times and confirmed by Ken Rosenthal, the Houston Astros have shown interest in a trade for Dodgers catcher Austin Barnes.
The Houston Astros have inquired about Austin Barnes, per source. They're looking for catchers with Robinson Chirinos and Martin Maldonado hitting free agency. Barnes has struggled at the plate the last two years, but the Astros are high on his framing.
— Jorge Castillo (@jorgecastillo) December 12, 2019
This is a really interesting development, but not at all surprising considering the recent reports that the Astros have been on the prowl for a young, controllable catcher — Barnes certainly fits that bill. The Astros almost definitely are viewing him as a defensive catcher — which he is excellent with — but his bat lagged behind last season.
Moreover, LA recently re-upped with Barnes on a one-year contract to avoid arbitration. He’s under team control through the 2022 season.
The Dodgers do not have room in their future plans for Barnes with Will Smith in the fold and Keibert Ruiz on the way. Thus, the best course of action might be to try and get some value from him in terms of prospects or relievers. At best he’d be the backup to Smith in 2020 with Los Angeles.
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It might be like dealing with the devil, but it could also pay dividends. While there is not much good history with the Astros and Dodgers, including a Yordan Alvarez-Josh Fields trade and a World Series in 2017, they could be perfect trade partners.
In 2019, Barnes posted a .203 batting average and a .633 on-base plus slugging percentage. What is interesting, though, is that Barnes posted a 5.3 WAR across 277 games over the last three seasons, mostly because of defense. If you translate that to about 120 games, he is about a 2-3 WAR player. That will play.