Two weeks ago, the Chicago Cubs surprised a lot of us by DFA’ing catcher P.J. Higgins to open up a 40-man roster spot for Tucker Barnhart. Although you don’t necessarily want to have four catchers on your 40-man roster, there is no expectation that prospect Miguel Amaya would be ready to contribute in the big leagues this season if necessary, so Higgins would be a convenient third option there behind Barnhart and Yan Gomes, especially because Higgins can also play the infield corners.
Maybe the hope was that Higgins would clear waivers and accept an outright assignment to Triple-A Iowa? Well, the first part came to pass, and Higgins was outrighted by the Cubs on Friday. Unfortunately for the team, that second part ain’t happening.
Higgins is declining the outright assignment and hitting free agency, which is his right as a player who has already been outrighted once in his career:
Higgins, 29, hit .229/.310/.383/97 wRC+ for the Cubs this past year over 74 games. The advanced metrics suggest there was a boatload of luck baked into those results, though, and his defensive metrics were generally poor. But Higgins did get a lot of plaudits from the coaching and pitching staffs, and the outright means the Cubs did still want to keep him in the organization.
Instead, Higgins will see if there’s a better minor league deal out there to be had, with an organization where his path to a big league back-up job looks a little more clear. If and when Amaya does become ready, that was going to be a hurdle for Higgins, and the Cubs have also added glove-first former Rockies catcher Dom Nuñez on a minor league deal. I can understand why Higgins might’ve preferred to move on.
It is still theoretically possible that Higgins returns on a new minor league deal after talking to other organizations, but I wouldn’t necessarily bank on that.
In which case, all the best to Higgins wherever he winds up. There’s still a potential big league back-up there, or I suppose there’s an outside shot he takes his talents overseas to make some better money.