Six days ago, the Chicago Cubs designated backup catcher P.J. Higgins for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster for Tucker Barnhart, their latest free agent signing. There was a hope at the time that the Cubs could sneak Higgins through waivers and outright him to Triple-A Iowa to keep him in the organization as a familiar backup to the big league team (and a buffer before Miguel Amaya had to be deployed perhaps prematurely). But that was a risky endeavor.
Having been out-righted previously in his career, Higgins would have the option to reject the assignment and become a free agent instead. And although this new free agent catcher signing technically isn’t confirmation of anything related to Higgins, it sure seems like it spells the end of his time in Chicago.
Nuñez, 27, has been a catcher in the Rockies organization since he was drafted by Colorado in the sixth round of the 2013 MLB Draft. Once upon a time, Nuñez was considered something of a legitimate prospect (never a top-100 type, but a quality, organizational top-15 type), but that was a LONG time ago.
Earlier this offseason, the Giants claimed Nuñez off waivers from the Rockies. But he eventually elected free agency and chose to sign with the Cubs. And I gotta tell you, I don’t hate that the Giants, who’ve become pretty good at pulling more out of less lately, had their eye on him. I’m guessing he works very well with pitchers (or something to that effect).
After first debuting with the Rockies in 2019, Nuñez has bounced back and forth between MLB and Triple-A, never quite hitting … well, anything at all. He does have some pop in his bat and has always taken a lot of walks, but it just never amounted to anything productive offensively. That said, he does rate out nicely behind the plate.
And in any case, offense is never the focus with these depth catching types for Triple-A. In all likelihood, the Cubs targeted Nuñez for the same reason they targeted Yan Gomes and Tucker Barnhart: they’ve heard something good about how he managed a pitching staff, calls a game, and generally works as a catcher. In all likelihood, he’ll start the year out at Triple-A Iowa (he has one minor league option remaining). And hopefully, we never actually see him in Chicago.