Austin Barnes, Los Angeles Dodgers
Midway through the 2022 season, the Dodgers signed stalwart backup Austin Barnes to a two-year extension (worth $7 million) to take him cheaply through the 2023 and 2024 seasons.
Despite years of effective backstop work and postseason performance, Year 1 of the Barnes deal already looks like a surprising disaster. Paying big money to boom-or-bust players almost never works. Paying middling money to rock-solid players? Why would that fail?
In his age-32 season last year, Barnes hit eight homers, knocked in 26 runs, posted a 96 OPS+ and played the backup role expertly defensively. This year? He's somehow subtracted 1.6 bWAR from the Dodgers by hitting .104 with a -14 OPS+ in 118 plate appearances.
Barnes has certainly been objectionable, and if the big-spending Dodgers (the only MLB team he's ever known from 2015-2023) are entertaining offers for him, that means there's a chance the Yankees could beg them to kick in the majority of his contract money. Barnes, at his lowest point, for free? It has to be considered.