Sources: Cubs closing in on a deal with veteran catcher Tucker Barnhart. Looks like Cubs have their guy to pair with Yan Gomes.— Sahadev Sharma (@sahadevsharma) December 22, 2022
Here’s what I wrote about Barnhart in my “Cubs free agent target” series last month:
After spending eight years with the Reds, Barnhart was traded to the Tigers last offseason as the Reds freely dumped salaries. Barnhart didn’t hit particularly well in Detroit, but then again, the entire Tigers team seemed to forget how to hit in 2022. Detroit finished last in MLB in runs, home runs and only the awful A’s prevented them from finishing last in OPS and OPS+.
Barnhart continued to play well defensively, though. He threw out 28 percent of runners attempting to steal against him (above the MLB average of 25 percent) and he’s thrown out 32 percent of runners trying to steal over his nine-year career.
Pitch framing? Eh, not so much — he ranks in the bottom third of catchers per Statcast. But in a year or so, framing isn’t going to be a thing anymore.
Barnhart made $7.5 million last year, which is likely the reason the Reds got rid of him. Coming off a mediocre hitting year and entering his age-32 season, perhaps the Cubs could sign him for two years and $8 million. That would be a reasonable salary for someone backing up Gomes, who is under contract for $6 million for 2023.
We don’t yet have confirmation of this signing, nor of the dollars, but I’d think a two-year, $8 million deal would be reasonable for Barnhart. He hits lefthanded, so he could be a platoon partner with Yan Gomes, though in reality I’d expect these two to pretty much evenly split time behind the plate.
Though Barnhart didn’t hit well last year, as noted above, neither did anyone with the Tigers. I’d expect him to improve to at least his 2021 level (.685 OPS, 21 doubles) and he did have a pretty good year with the Reds as recently as 2019 (.708 OPS, 11 home runs).
This seems a reasonable signing and shouldn’t preclude the Cubs signing another hitter, perhaps Michael Conforto.
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