Cubs "Closing in" on a Deal with Catcher Tucker Barnhart (UPDATES)

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Cubs “Closing in” on a Deal with Catcher Tucker Barnhart (UPDATES)

Chicago Cubs

The Chicago Cubs will soon have their “other” catcher, as hinted on the radio this morning by Jed Hoyer.

It’s going to be long-time Reds catcher Tucker Barnhart:

Barnhart, 31, is coming off something of a disastrous year in Detroit (.221/.287/.267/63 wRC+, -0.2 WAR), his first and only season away from Cincinnati. Not sure what happened there, but prior to last season, he’d been a guy who was generally close to a league-average bat *for a catcher,* had mixed (but frequently exceptional?) defensive metrics, and is generally regarded as working well with pitchers.

Between 2015 and 2021, Barnhart hit .249/.326/.374/83 wRC+, put up good defensive metrics, and won two Gold Gloves. You hope that’s the guy you’re getting.

In a pairing with Yan Gomes, the switch-hitting Barnhart could start against more of the righties, and could also just help to keep Gomes, 35, as fresh as possible. It might not be a TOTAL dead zone in the lineup offensively, even if the two will not come remotely close to replacing Willson Contreras’s bat.

But we know that’s not what this is really about. The Cubs have made it very clear that they want their catchers to be all about working with pitchers and run prevention and game-calling and the like. I don’t have a great sense yet for where Barnhart falls on that spectrum – it’s not like there’s data for it – so I will be interested to hear more from the organization if and when this deal goes through.

More soon.

UPDATE: Mark Feinsand says it’s happening:

UPDATE 2: Oh my, Barnhart is kinda getting PAID:

So basically it can be one year and $6.5 million if Barnhart is good, and two years and something less than $9.5 million if he’s not. Pretty good get coming off such a down year, but like I said, before that, he was a solid catcher in all phases and a near-average-catcher-bat.

All that said, this contract suggests to me that the Cubs – and another suitor or two – really value whatever it is that Barnhart brings in terms of working with pitchers.

UPDATE 3: I misunderstood Heyman’s wording, and/or some info is getting crossed in the wires. The deal is a little less onerous than I thought:

We’ll find out more of the particulars soon, but I think that means it’s a $3.25M AAV, but if he opts out, that first year salary might actually be higher than the second year. Either way, it’s a pretty reasonable contact for a back-up-type catcher.

Now we find out if the Cubs can succeed with two good back-up-type catchers.

Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.