After clearing waivers and being outrighted to Triple-A Iowa by the Chicago Cubs last week, catcher P.J. Higgins has elected to become a free agent.
Higgins was originally designated for assignment by the Cubs in December to make room for veteran catcher Tucker Barnhart. Barnhart is expected to split time with Yan Gomes at the catching position in 2023 as the Cubs emphasize defense and game-managing out of the catcher position moving forward.
Higgins mainly served as the third catcher on the Cubs' roster in 2022 behind Gomes and Willson Contreras. Given his status as the third catcher on the Cubs' roster, Higgins saw equal time at first base last season in addition to four games at third base. Despite hitting at a near .300 clip in his seasons with the Iowa Cubs in 2019 and 2021, Higgins struggled to find success offensively at the Major League level in 2022. In 229 plate appearances, Higgins slashed .229/.310/.383 with a .306 wOBA and 97 wRC+.
Given the Cubs' backend of the 26-man roster includes players in Zach McKinstry and Miles Mastrobuoni that are capable of playing multiple positions, Higgins likely did not have a clear path back to the Major League level with the team. Especially when you factor in that the Cubs' first base duties this season will be primarily filled by Eric Hosmer and eventually, first base prospect Matt Mervis.
The Cubs signed defensive-oriented catcher Dom Nuñez to a minor-league deal on Friday. Nuñez fits the profile of the type of catcher that the Cubs prefer to have within their organization and likely would have taken Higgins' role with the Iowa Cubs.