Recently, the Cubs’ signing of catcher Tucker Barnhart was reported on various social media, so I wrote that up here a week ago today.
Today, the Cubs officially announced the signing by press release. While the Cubs don’t announce contract terms, it was reported that this is a two-year contract worth $6.5 million with an opt out after the first year.
To make room for Barnhart on the 40-man roster, catcher/infielder P.J. Higgins was designated for assignment.
Higgins can hit, a bit, and does have positional versatility (he can play first and third base). I’d imagine he’ll clear waivers and be assigned to Triple-A Iowa and get a non-roster invitation to Spring Training.
Just to repeat what I wrote about Barnhart in my Cubs free agent target article on him from 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.
It’s true that the Cubs will be worse off offensively at catcher with Barnhart and Yan Gomes as the catching tandem instead of having Willson Contreras behind the plate. It should be noted, though, that Contreras caught fewer than half of the games last year — just 72 behind the plate. Most of his hitting was done as the DH.
The Cubs do need to replace that offense and have, in part, done so with the signing of Dansby Swanson. With the signings of Swanson, Barnhart, Cody Bellinger and the move of Nico Hoerner to second base, the team defense will be significantly improved. You’ll notice.
With this move, the Cubs’ 40-man roster is full. If they make any more signings — and Jed Hoyer has hinted those could be coming — they’ll either have to make trades or more DFAs to make room for new players.