Devon Travis seems to be well on his way back to Toronto lately. It was only weeks ago that he started his rehab stint in High-A Dunedin, playing four impressive games before making his way to Buffalo. In four games, Travis is hitting .294/.294/.462 so it's not as if he's raking (or even walking) against minor league competition but you can see where it's going.
The likelihood of his promotion increases when you look at the fact that the Blue Jays rank 27th in the entire league in wRC+ for second baseman. Of course, the two men primarily occupying that position in Travis's absence are none other than Darwin Barney and Ryan Goins. Between them then, it would make for a fruitful comparison to suggest a potential player who will be inevitably demoted in the coming weeks.
From an offensive standpoint, the two players are actually quite similar despite their opposite trending numbers this season. This year the two lines for the middle-infielders are as follows:
Ryan Goins: .148/.197/.235
Darwin Barney: .338/.377/.462
Now the first thing you're going to say when reading this is that Barney is nearly twice the player that Goins is offensively. That would be true if this were just another season for Barney. It isn't. On his career, Barney owns a .248/.298/.342 triple-slash with a 79 wRC+ suggesting that, if anything, he's slightly below average offensively at the position.
Looking at career averages, this is where Goins aligns himself much more closely with Barney. On his career, Goins owns a .222/.270/.314 slash line with a 59 wRC+. This should be nearly all you need to see to confirm that Barney is the superior player offensively as Goins is working with a much smaller sample size, giving his 2015 career-year a more magnified effect on his career line.
Additionally, one of Goins's weaknesses at the plate is that, for the power he provides, he strikes out far too often at 20.8 per cent of his at-bats in his career. Outside of the short sample size this year in Barney that weakness is absent, owning a much more faint strikeout rate of 11.6 per cent of his at-bats.
In recent history, manager John Gibbons has employed the two in a platoon split where Barney played against left-handed pitchers with Goins playing against right-handed pitchers. While Goins no doubt struggles with lefties over his career, that's essentially the moral of the story when it comes to his overall offensive capabilities. Even if you were to apply his batting average against righties to left-handers, it still wouldn't reach Barney's batting average of .240 against left-handed pitchers. Thus, it's slightly confusing to me as to why this platoon was ever created with Goins simply being not as dangerous as Barney offensively regardless of the pitcher's handedness.
Neither Goins nor Barney shows a particular aptitude to walk at a high rate, but neither are put on a club's 25-man roster for their offensive prowess. Instead it's their defence that puts them into major league uniforms and penciled into lineups. In this, the race is even closer.
Ever since Goins made his first appearance in a Blue Jays uniform, the narrative surrounding him has been that he's a glove first player with a bat that teams will have to stomach. That hasn't changed this year as Goins continues to be a superior defender up the middle. On the season he's saved two runs with his defence at shortstop and second base with a UZR/150 of 6.3. There's no question about it, Goins can defend.
However, Barney himself is no slouch either. In less innings, he's saved the exact same amount of runs at second base with a UZR/150 of 2.6. Where the two players differ however is that while Goins doesn't have the rich experience of playing third base that Barney does, Barney doesn't have the experience playing shortstop that Goins does. Obviously, the player with the most experience playing all infield positions--outside of first base--would be most valuable on a roster to allow for off-days for each of the tiring infielders.
In that, Barney again earns the upper hand over Goins, playing at least 70 innings at each infield position. Goins has just four innings at third base last season and doesn't have a significant advantage over Barney at any of the other positions so it's hard to make the argument that Goins should stick around for simply defensive reasons.
As of today it appears that the decision has been made. Barney received the start against Minnesota's Phil Hughes despite Goins owning a 4-for-7 record against him. No doubt that's the best decision for the team. Sure, it has been nice watching Ryan Goins make impossible plays in the field as he did last season during the postseason, but that train has run its course. It's hard to keep him on the field with a struggling offence that he's doing more than his part in contributing to.
In Darwin Barney the Jays may not have an everyday player but they do have a quality utility player that can play when teammates need an off-day or, knock on wood, in the event of an injury. He's not going to carry a team when he's in the lineup, but he won't hurt you either as Goins has done thus far with a -0.9 WAR.
When Devon Travis gets called up, Barney's play will dictate who receives the everyday role at second base. In terms of Goins's time, that book has already been wrote and published. All that's left is sending it out for sale in Buffalo, New York.