UPDATE: The Los Angeles Dodgers have acquired Barney for a player to be named later.
The Chicago Cubs recently designated Darwin Barney, their starting second baseman since 2011, for assignment. Long regarded as a plus defender in the middle infield, Barney was let go because he failed to produce at the plate. Letting the 28 year-old go has allowed the Cubs to take a look at Arismendy Alcantara, one of the Cubs' supremely talented middle infield prospects.
WHY THIS MAKES SENSE
Barney, despite his well-publicized offensive shortcomings, has been better offensively than the Tigers' current backup middle infielder, Andrew Romine. Romine has batted .219/.278/.260, which equates to a wRC+ of 50, while Barney has hit .230/.265/.328, good for a 58 wRC+. Both have been bad. Barney has been better. Barely.
Barney makes up for a portion of his offensive shortcomings with his glove. He's played second base everyday for the Cubs for the last three and a half seasons, but he played shortstop in the minors, and has been regarded as a plus defender throughout his professional career. Barney turned in rookie and sophomore seasons of 1.9 and 2.3 fWAR mainly due to his defensive contributions, while Fangraphs has generally regarded Romine's defense as about average.
WHY THIS DOESN'T MAKE SENSE
Barney is bad offensively. His best offensive production came in his rookie year when he posted a wRC+ of 79. He's at best a slight improvement over Romine, and if other teams are interested the price could be too high. If GM Dave Dombrowski is going to make the effort to improve the backup middle infielder position, maybe he'll pursue another option who isn't annually flirting with the Mendoza line.
Barney looks like an upgrade over Romine. Since the Cubs designated Barney for assignment, the Tigers can acquire him rather cheaply -- either by sending the Cubs a marginal prospect, putting in a waiver claim, or signing Barney if he clears waivers and elects free agency.
If the Tigers don't acquire Barney, which is obviously likely, it will likely be because another team was interested or because Dombrowski, who has access to more information than the general public, simply likes Romine better than Barney.
Upgrading the 25th man on the roster isn't a flashy move, but Romine's already received 165 plate appearances this season, so this could be a simple, low-risk way to improve the team.