The Chicago Cubs officially have a new catcher as the team announced the signing of veteran Tucker Barnhart to a two-year deal on Thursday.
When Barnhart's deal was first reported, there was some confusion in regard to the language of the deal as it wasn't clear whether or not the second year of his deal was guaranteed. The announcement from the Cubs clears that confusion,
With Willson Contreras now a member of the St. Louis Cardinals and Miguel Amaya still having yet to return to catching duties since recovering from Tommy John surgery in 2021, catcher was a clear need for the team as it seemed likely that the team wanted a veteran platoon partner for Yan Gomes instead of P.J. Higgins.
In regard to Higgins, he was the corresponding roster move as the Cubs designated the catcher for assignment on Thursday to make room for Barnhart on the 40-man roster. In 229 plate appearances with the Cubs last season, Higgins slashed .229/.310/.383 with a .306 wOBA and 97 wRC+. Higgins did show his positional flexibility for the Cubs last season as in addition to 34 games at catcher, he also appear in 38 games at first base and 4 at third base last season.
For Barnhart, it seems likely that he will receive most of the starts at catcher when the Cubs are facing a right-handed starting pitcher. While Barnhart is a two-time Gold Glove winner from his time with the Cincinnati Reds, his defensive metrics have regressed in recent seasons. Though Barnhart has a solid reputation for managing a pitching staff and the Cubs have emphasized that out of the catching position in recent seasons.
The Cubs remain thin at the catcher position with the Iowa Cubs. If Higgins doesn't clear waivers, then expect the team to add another catcher this offseason on a minor-league deal.