Cubs Make Tucker Barnhart Signing Official, DFA Catcher P.J. Higgins

Social Navigation

Cubs Make Tucker Barnhart Signing Official, DFA Catcher P.J. Higgins

Chicago Cubs

I think it was fair to have catcher P.J. Higgins on the 40-man roster bubble, but he definitely wouldn’t have been my guess to get designated for assignment just yet.

But that’s the move today, as the Cubs had to open up a spot to make the signing of fellow catcher Tucker Barnhart officially official. In Barnhart, the Cubs are adding a second glove-first catcher to pair with Yan Gomes, believing that their work in all phases of the run-prevention game with outweigh their limited offensive impact.

Higgins, though, is the news for today, since we already knew Barnhart was coming.

The 29-year-old catcher – who can also play first and third – hit .229/.310/.383/97 wRC+ in his first extended time in the big leagues, though the underlying metrics suggest there was a whole lot of luck in there that would not necessarily be repeatable going forward.

Still, Higgins, with minor league options remaining, figured to be a really solid third catcher for the Cubs in 2023. The pitchers like him, he already knows a whole lot of them, and he would provide a buffer before the Cubs might have to press prospect Miguel Amaya into service, coming off multiple years lost to Tommy John surgery, a Lisfranc fracture, and a pandemic. Does the Higgins DFA mean the Cubs are really confident about Amaya’s progress? We know the 23-year-old is still a legit prospect, but he’s just missed so much time. I don’t know how you could be confident he’s ready to be your organization’s true third catcher in a competitive season, regardless of the fact that he’s already on the 40-man roster.

To that end, I’m sure the Cubs are hoping they can get Higgins through waivers, and then outright him to Triple-A Iowa. The problem there is that, because Higgins has been outrighted before in his career, he has the right to reject that outright assignment and hit free agency. It’ll be his choice. Maybe he’ll decide there’s a better path out there for him in another organization?

If the Cubs can’t keep Higgins, or even if they do, I still expect they’ll look to add a quality veteran backstop on a minor league deal. It just seems like an every-year thing, and you can rarely count on getting through a season with just two catchers.

Officially, the Cubs have seven days to trade, waive, or release Higgins. The 40-man roster is still full at 40.

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.