The Cubs and catcher Tucker Barnhart are in agreement on a two-year deal, though the second year is a player option. He’ll be guaranteed $6.5MM but escalators could push his earnings to $9.5MM. The deal is pending a physical. Barnhart is represented by the Ballengee Group.
The catching situation in Wrigley has been in flux for some time, despite the fact that they’ve had one of the best backstops in the league for the past seven seasons in Willson Contreras. The club leaned into a rebuild in 2021, trading away Anthony Rizzo, Javier Báez and Kris Bryant, among others. Contreras stayed at that time as he still was under control for 2022, but a trade still seemed inevitable. That feeling only increased when the club signed Yan Gomes to a two-year deal going into the season.
Curiously, a deal never came together, though it was later reported that they had a trade lined up with the Astros before Houston owner Jim Crane scuttled the deal. Contreras eventually turned down a qualifying offer from the Cubs and signed with the Cardinals. That will net the Cubs an extra pick in the upcoming draft but it left them a bit thin behind the plate.
Gomes is still under contract for one more year but he’s now 35 years old and coming off a poor year at the plate. He hit .235/.260/.365 in 2022 for a wRC+ of 73, indicating he was 27% below league average. The only other catchers on the 40-man roster are P.J. Higgins, who is more of a utility player than can catch if needed, and Miguel Amaya, who has yet to reach Triple-A. Given those options, catcher was a natural target for the Cubs, who were also connected to Christian Vázquez, Omar Narváez, Curt Casali and Roberto Perez at times this offseason.
Barnhart, 32 next month, should provide the Cubs with a fairly stable profile. He’s rarely been exceptional or awful, on either side of the ball. He’s hit .245/.320/.360 in his career for a wRC+ of 80. That indicates he’s been 20% below league average overall, but catchers generally are less potent at the plate than their peers. The league average catcher posted a wRC+ of 89 in 2022. Barnhart has never posted a wRC+ higher than 90 but he’s also never finished below 63, apart from his brief debut in 2014. That 63, however, was just this past season with Detroit, when he batted .221/.287/.267.
On the glove side, Barnhart has 12 DRS for his career. FanGraphs has graded his framing as poor on the whole, but it bottomed out in 2018 and was above-average in next three seasons before dipping just below in 2022. Although defensive metrics don’t paint him as a lights-out defender, Barnhart has won a pair of Gold Gloves, including in 2017 when he nabbed a league-leading 44% of runners who attempted to swipe a base on his watch. He also received interest from the Reds, Pirates and Astros this offseason but will join the Cubs, returning the National Central where he spent many years as a Red.
The Cubs have been fairly aggressive this winter, signing Dansby Swanson, Cody Bellinger, Jameson Taillon, Brad Boxberger and now Barnhart. That brings the club’s payroll up to $172MM, per Roster Resource, with a competitive balance tax figure of $206MM. That payroll is already a sizeable increase over last year’s $143MM figure, per Cot’s Baseball Contracts, though they’ve been up as high as $203MM in the past. It’s unknown how much more the club plans on spending, but it’s possible there’s more there to work with. They’re also more than $20MM shy of the luxury tax threshold, which is $233MM.
Sahadev Sharma of The Athletic first reported that the Cubs and Barnhart were closing in on a deal. Mark Feinsand of MLB.com first reported that an agreement was in place. Joel Sherman of The New York Post first reported the one-year plus a player option framework. Jon Heyman of the New York Post first reported the financials.
Image courtesy of USA Today Sports.
The Baseball Fan
Agree, solid defensively, some bat pop.
Hits for a decent average. Will form a good tandem with Gomes.
.225 is not a decent average
Meflo, for a catcher on a 2 year, 6.5m deal, it’s decent.
6.5m for one year, plus a player option.
The article says 6.5m in total guarantees. Player options are included in guarantee calculation.
Extrapolate his numbers over a full season, he’s a . 245 hitter, with 10 home runs. He and Gomes combined should give you what Contreras gave you, with maybe better defense. I think they look good up the middle defensively. It’s a pretty good signing.
Ludicrous, as usual.
Barnhart has a career .245 batting average and hasn’t hit .250 since 2017. At this point, I would expect no more than .220 with few walks and even less power.
Bat pop? Had one HR last year. Terrible hitter all around.
In a full season, he would average 10 home runs per his lifetime stats. To me, that’s
“ some pop”.
From what I read, he is “below average” in most every category. wRC+ and framing. Yada.
Can’t wait until Contreras comes to Wrigley!
You can’t wait? You don’t root for the Cubs or the Cards… Must be bad to root for a team you don’t even follow.
Sir this is a Wendy’s
Wilson can’t call a game and pitcher preferred to pitch to Gomes over him, so what are you trying to convey here?
The signing of the new catcher was for a platoon partner for Gomes, and nothing more, so while you enjoy Wilson in a Red Bird uniform let be clear Cubs pitcher’s pitched better when Gomes caught.
.221 BA and 1 homer in almost 300 ABs last year is solid? You would think a prospect in their organization would be cheaper and be able to put up those numbers.
I think it’s the defense that they coveted here.
His defense was quite bad last season.
Barnhart had -8 defensive runs saved in 2022.
They are hoping last year was an outlier.
He won gold gloves in 2017 and 2020.
Nobody is saying he’s an all star. Yes, he had a bad season, but his career number suggest he’s a .250 hitter. He hits RHP fairly well and Gomes hits LHP. Cubs ownership values defense and pitch framing, so overall with the platoon it looks like it could fair well for them.
It’s not a good move or bad one.
It’s just meh.
Tbh thought they would trade for a younger guy that has more potential down the long run.
They have a young stud C prospect only a year away, might even get a cup of coffee late next season. So they don’t need their catcher of the future, they needed a vet to compliment Gomes. This signing actually makes a lot of sense.
Who’s that stud prospect? I know amaya is close but you can’t be talking about amaya cuz he’s no stud lol
He makes more sense than Jansen, I think. Solid defender and doesn’t cost prospect. He’s probably best remaining free agent catcher. You get the lefty/right platoon with Gomes.
Wait – Amaya is not a “young stud”; a lot of the shine has come off of him due in part to injury but he was never a top 100 type prospect. A stud is the kid in Baltimore or in Oakland. Amaya is a future regular major league starting catcher. And that’s fine. But he’s not a stud.
The Human Toilet
Amaya was a top 100 prospect in 2021 at #89
He is not a future superstar or a elite talent, but he if over the injuries that derailed him, he has a chance to be a high quality defensive catcher that can lead a pitching staff which the Cubs value the most and his bat has a solid upside to put on solid offensive not great numbers.
He’s a Cubs prospect, so of course he’s destined for the HOF.
Amaya is a total waste and hasn’t even caught a game in 3 years. He’s not even in my top 5 in the organization anymore as Aliendo, Opitz, Ballesteros and Quintero are all better bets. He got hurt as a Freakin DH. Kinda says it all. Even Hearn was supposed to be better but he’s stuck in A ball still.
Before the injuries derailed him, Amaya was ranked 91st in ESPN’s list. He’s still only like 23.
Amaya definitely needs to stay healthy a put up some gaudy numbers in AAA to get back on the radar. At this point he’s a giant dart throw.
He WAS rated at incorrectly and was subsequently unrated. Like most prospects, he turned out to be fool’s gold.
I thought they’d line up with Toronto, but I’ve read Toronto prefers controllable arms and/or MLB ready talent. Not sure the Cubs are really in a position to give that up for the catcher position.
It’s a good move it’s not like Yan is not gonna be the starter
They will probably split time evenly. But yes, Yan is considered the starter. They really like his veteran presence.
they traded Contreras for Barnhart? I’m not a cub fan, but I don’t get it. Swanson is meh, Nico is a way better player, Taillon signing I like, he’s not an ace, but he’s solid. Bellinger is not good anymore, and hasn’t been. his defense is good, but he can’t hit his own a$$ with both hands. I’d have kept Willson, left Bellinger alone, and you could have STILL signed Swanson and Jamison. This still doesn’t make them good enough to beat the Brewers or the Cardinal’s imo. Chicago payroll should be top 6 or 7 easily in baseball.
No one knows Contreras better than the Cubs. There’s a reason they never even offered him a low ball deal. They are prioritizing defense, catcher is a HUGE part of that. Contreras is terrible at framing, terrible at handling a pitching staff. He’s a plus hitter BUT only as a catcher. As a DH, he’s below average as a hitter.
Still doesn’t answer the larger question about what in the world is the Cubs actual plan here? Weakest division in baseball, and they have this Crew fan just sitting here chuckling to myself. They’re not really even trying to be competitive. They haven’t added anything that pushes them much over a shot at an 80 win season. They must not feel that they have enough pieces to even try, and the farm isn’t ready yet. Not complaining, mind you
Weakest division in baseball and the Brewers could not even make into the expanded playoff structure in 2022. The Crew has a top-line starting rotation but that offense is underwhelming. Your organization made minimal improvements in the off-season because you have an ownership that counts nickels and pennies. You may chuckle about the Cubs but Cardinals fans LOL every time when someone says that this will be Milwaukee’s year.
The plan is to prioritize athleticism and defense behind a pitching staff that works toward soft contact.
They still need to add some offensive pop somewhere. Conforto as a OF/DH seems likely, but they already have a few wild cards. Not sure they can afford to take a chance on another one. But proven sluggers aren’t readily available outside of a trade.
Classic deflection. The Cubs should be laughing at the mid-market Crew, but here they are sitting on their hands. It’s a large market team, very similar to the Giants, sitting on the sidelines. If they let the Mets, Dodgers, Padres and Phillies scoop up all the talent, baseball suffers, certainly in the NL.
kripes… That’s about the most under-valued, homer, rival fan ‘evaluation’ I’ve read on here in awhile. And that takes some doing. Well, they may have not added a Correa type FA but they are most definitely better than they were. Oh, and by the way, what were the big moves the Brewers made? Ah, yes, their big move is just hanging onto their three starters- that they’ll end up trading.
kripes—i respect your argument but here’s what I see as a problem—you are comparing the cubs to the mets/dodgers/philles/etc but you are only comparing the brewers to the cubs…..you need to compare the brewers to those other teams as well….you almost sound like a white sox fans who cares more about the cubs than the twins/indians/et al.
the cubs are not sitting on their hands either–the past two offseasons thus far the cubs have expended $380M on free agents (brewers $12M) to replace their core….and they are just working on replacing the core as pca, davis, canario, etc ready themselves to hopefully make it the major league level…..of course, like 15-16-17 all the stars need to align, but at least they are doing something even if it wasn’t judge, correa, turner
Do you think the Brewers and Cubs will be playing in MLB in 2024?
Or is this rotisserie baseball where all we talk about is 2023, and when the WS is over in 2023 all the team owners will draft from a pool of all MLB players for the 2024 season?
The Brewers have never won anything. The Cubs literally accomplished more just recently from 2015-2017 than the Brewers have in their entire irrelevant existence. Including before they got booted out of the AL. If I was unfortunate enough to be a Brewers fan, I’d be more worried about my own team… not obsessing over the Cubs. What significant moves have the Brewers made this offseason? Exactly. I have no idea what you’re “chuckling” about.
kripes, your Brewers only finished 12 games ahead of the Cubs. They were also pne of the worst teams in the second half. Meanwhile, the Cubs were one of the best teams in the league in the second half. And what major improvement has the Brewers made? Nothing!
Maybe you should stop chuckling and focus on selling Brewers tickets so they might sellout games that don’t have the Cubs in town.
Maybe I’ll see you at Wrigley North!
As a Brewer’s fan, I have to agree with HeyHey about Milwaukee’s disappointing past season and current off season. I’ve been impressed with the additions to the Cub’s roster so far and think they have a reasonable chance to pass the Brewer’s next season
Not all owners and gms can make savvy moves like spending 20 percent of their payroll on Christian Yelich.
You do know only 4 teams have spent more than the Cubs this offseason, right?
Nah you probably don’t…
Also not to mention he misses time every season due to injury; usually hamstrings. That problem isn’t gonna get any better as he ages into his 30’s. He’s never even close to full strength or playing his best ball as we get near the season’s end
Contreras is not “terrible” at framing or calling games. Those are wild exaggerations for which Jon Lester would wholeheartedly disagree with you.
Haha, Lester was just lookin out for his former teammate. Again, the numbers don’t lie and are EASY to look up. His framing, his DRS, the MASSIVE disparity between the Cubs pitching numbers when he was behind the plate as opposed to Gomes… it’s all the right there. Again, no one knows him better than Ross (former Catcher BTW) and the Cubs and in spite of the Cubs needing a catcher, in spite of Contreras literally crying that he wanted to stay with the Cubs, they didn’t even offer him a low ball extension. Nothing.
Check the metrics dude.
I think the real reason he wasn’t offered an extension is that he’s 31 years old next year and he was going to get a long term contract. The first two years may be good, but the last three probably won’t be so hot.
a strange team indeed.
@cardsfanatik Fortunately, you have zero decision making authority for the Cubs
The fact that you say, Swanson is mad, proves you don’t know what you’re talking about.
Swanson scored 27 more runs than Arenado, drove in only 7 less with only 5 less HRs. And this is from the SS position. Typical rocket scientist Cardinal fan. Cubs also now have two catchers that are better defenders and game callers than the guy MO just gave $80M to.
It’s really gonna suck watching the Cardinals be a bottom third pitching staff and waste those Arenado/Goldschmidt years on 88 win seasons isn’t it?
You really shouldn’t use Arenado and Swanson in the same sentence. Not comparable players. Swansons best year doesn’t hold a candle to Arenado
And he used counting stats from one season to compare them, smh.
Disagree. Not saying Arenado isn’t better, but Swanson darn sure held a candle to him in 2022.
no he didn’t.
Manfred Rob's Earth Band
Yes he did
See what I did there
They have ground-ball pitchers and very good up the middle defense. It seems like a coherent plan. The fact that they never attempted to re-sign Contreras obviously means they didn’t like something about his game, it clearly wasn’t the money. Their rotation and defense is probably as good as the cardinals. They got some work to do with the bats but the off season isn’t over.
Hinch and the Tigers screwed this guy over. He started slow so Hinch turned him into the backup.
Barnhart actually started off alright, but struggled after the first month or two. Horrible offence, and his defense was below average. The Cubs are in for a lot of disappointment.
I don’t know where you came with this “turned him into a backup” he had 90 starts, 170 more innings, and 10 point higher fielding %
2 gold gloves. He must not be too bad defensively.
He does have two gold gloves. But his defense last year was quite poor.
In fact, Barnhart had -8 defensive runs saved in 2022.
According to the metrics in Detroit on a lousy team. I don’t take too much stock in that. He will only be 32. Has a great arm, which will be even more important with larger bases. Great signing.
For Love of the Game
You don’t know what you’re talking about. Barnhardt started ok last year, hittin .297 in April as the Tigers primary catcher. He continued starting the majority of games while his average slipped to .188 and .179 in May and June. Then he split time while batting .154 in July. All of this with zero power, just two extra base hits (doubles) in 184 ABs. With slightly less playing time in August and September, his batting average was over .250 in each month
Strong Defensive catcher !
He was, earlier in his career, but certainly not last year.
Barnhart had -8 defensive runs saved in 2022.
Manfred Rob's Earth Band
How many times are you going to say he wasn’t good last year? 🙂
As many times as it takes. There’s a lot of misguided people who think Barnhart is still a good defensive catcher.
He’s been a very good defensive catcher for the majority of his career. One year isnt necessarily a trend. It’s a 3 million dollar gamble he bounces back.
It’s true that it’s a cheap gamble, and not the end of the world when it doesn’t work out.
Kruk's Left Nut
I think he’ll have a solid rebound campaign. Especially hitting at Wrigley.
The fit is logical but the player option is not, in my opinion.
Competition for FA. Reds and others were interested ,because he has a good defensive track record. That hook of an option may have been the difference.
This one belongs to the Reds
Yeah, was hoping he would come home but he was probably made a better offer.
I’m all for rostering valuable defensive catchers, but he’s not one whose defensive value is so much greater than other free agent options that a hefty player option is worth it.
What is the better deal? Barnhart at 2 years / $6.5M or James McCann at 2 years / $5M + a low level prospect? Personally, I like the McCann deal better.
I think Mccann being right handed made more sense for Baltimore and Barnhart being a lefty made more sense for the cubs.
Cubs projected daily lineup already included lefties Mervis and Bellinger and switch hitter, Happ. It wasn’t like they were short on guys who could hit RHP, plus Hoerner pretty much has equal platoon splits so him being a RHH doesn’t really matter much.
Yan Gomes is a right handed batter and Barnhart a left handed batter. It’s a platoon situation at that position not necessarily a need for the team. Adley Rutschman smashed right handed pitching last year and struggled against lefties.
Barnhart has been better against LHP each of the last two seasons. If he drops switch hitting like he has before, he would be a LHH with reverse platoon splits. If he maintains switch hitting, then he should only be exposed to LHP at this point. Makes no sense to have a lefty/righty platoon when both are better against LHP. Yan didn’t have a huge discernable difference last season, but historically hits lefties better. So that’s two catchers that hit LHP better… what’s the point of a platoon then?
I prefer McCann, for sure.
He will keep the plate warm for Amaya.
Actually, I think Gomes will keep it warm for Amaya. Barnhart has backup C written all-over him. If he plays less he can focus more on his defense which has been very solid in the past. The LH bat is also a nice complement to the typical RH C- even if he offers very little offense, it’s nice to not run a string of 3-4 weak RH bats back-to-back in the bottom of the lineup.
Plus, Tucker is Hoosier, so that’s kinda fun!
DeGrom Texas Ranger
What is it with Detroit loving defense only catchers? He threw out 44% of runners in 2017 vs the 27% league average, but he is awful enough that even bref, with it’s high weight on defense, shows his career average as negative WAA.
It’s called “The Ausmus Effect”
As a Tiger fan, I thought Barnhart walked into Comerica and looked at those dimensions and it screwed his swing up big time. He looked nothing like he did in Cincinnati. I bet he bounces back just fine in Wrigley and the National League. Just watch.
I think Barnhart’s career is winding down, it’s only going to get worse from here.
And that is just fine of it is winding down. He is going to split duty with 36 year old yan games. Nobody is asking him to catch 130 games.
And if they keep Higgins on the roster, Cubs will have 3 catchers and w some luck, Amaya will be healthy and hitting in AAA. Decent depth.
I couldn’t agree more that Tucker is his permanent decline. I accurately predicted his decline would continue in Detroit and that by the end of the season, he would be splitting at least equal amounts of time with Haas. It’s highly doubtful that he miraculously bucks the trend, especially since he is a catcher.
He was good defensively for Detroit, did a great job with their young pitchers and I’m sure mentored other catchers. But, as far as hitting goes, his production will continue to decline.
Manfred Rob's Earth Band
Why will hit hitting continue to decline?
Maybe he just declined because he went to Detroit, Because doesn’t every FA that goes there? Maybe he was just depressed and now will get back to his previous self now that he’s in Chicago. He’s the best candidate as a C for a rebound. We’ll find out.
I can only tell you that his OPS+ was 95 in 2017. Since then, it was 88,80,75,77 and finally 64 last year. I wouldn’t expect any improvement next year.
Your prediction will be proven wrong in 2023
Because hitting almost always does around 32-33 years old. Once the decline starts, players rarely bounce back. His decline started in Cincinnati (which, I’m sure, is why they traded him) and continued in Detroit. Looks to be the beginning of the end.
Let me say that I hope not. He’s a great catcher and any team would be lucky to have a productive Barnhart as their backstop.
Cubs got their guy.
Hey, Arnie. Did he say Tucker?.
Barn burner move.
Not a bad signing and bats from the left side
I wouldve prefered Jorge Alfaro but Im ok with this
If you want good defense thank the Tucker Mother.
Great signing. Now the Jays can keep all their C’s and dream about what they could of gotten. Unless Cohen decides he needs to get to 500 million on the Luxury tax.
Doug Dascenzo's Mob Boss Dad
Great. Another automatic out in the lineup. Couldn’t they have checked on Rick Wrona’s availability?
Manfred Rob's Earth Band
Damon Berryhill is on line 2.
Where’s Paul Bako these days??
He’s only solid defensively and more suited as a backup. He’s also a streaky hitter. He’ll go on a hot streak where he’ll hit .400 over a 10 game stretch and go his next 10 games without a hit. Maybe he’ll do well in Chicago but I wouldn’t bet on it.
When they sign Mancini and then either Chafin or Taylor Rogers and the off season is completely stocked up. They got a bunch of things they needed at reasonable prices. Exactly what they said they’d do.
Thinking they should grab Hosmer now that he’s been released. Pads still paying him so claiming team will only pay the league minimum for ‘23. He’s a LH bat they could use at 1B/DH to shield Mervis as he breaks into MLB.
Except for the obvious reasons they shouldn’t. They have fantastic hitting 1B in Mervis and the really big reason to stay away is he stinks. Really bad like Tuna fish that’s been in your garbage for a week.
That bad huh? I was thinking bad like dirty running socks that haven’t been washed for a month
Mervis played 4 games at the AAA level. He still has a lot to prove.
I’m NO fan of Hosmer. He is basically hot garbage at this point of his career. But no harm in picking him up for league minimum. Cut him when Mervis is ready. Unless you have a better option somewhere…please?
You’re an idiot because Mervis played 57 games at Iowa and the whole Arizona Fall League against every other teams top prospects. Please stop talking now. adkuchan. By the way Guzuntheit. Pardon the spelling before the grammar police show up.
Yeah Mancini and Mervis and get the extra year out of Mervis bring him up in May or whatever the minimum is.
Yeah Mervis played in way more games at AAA than 4 in 2022. More like 54
Just a stop gap piece until they come up with a solution…doesn’t look like Amaya is the solution as of now since his star has fallen.
I felt the same about Amaya the last couple years. It wasn’t until this winter that I saw, he actually had a nice month in AA at the end of ‘22. Hopefully they push him up to Iowa before too long as he continues to get healthy.
Really bad defensively last year and can’t hit at all. He should fit in nicely.
Manfred Rob's Earth Band
I’m glad to hear your praise about fitting in. Peer pressure can be tough.
Anyone who knows baseball knows Barnhart is not bad defensively. Defensive stats are garbage.
I guess there’s no more room on the Mets.
Cohen has asked Manfred how much it would cost for Manfred to look the other way so they have a 50 man 40 man. Hopefully the payoff won’t count against the Luxury Tax.
For the first time in several seasons the Cubs will be able to put a competent team together to start the year, but have the payroll and prospect capital to improve in season.
I like the signing, sad to see Contreras go but a defensive-minded catcher is a good way to go. There are other slots in the lineup that can give you more pop anyway.
I don’t get why every MLBTR article about a player who is a free agent/involved in a transaction has to regurgitate the same stats and talking points over and over again.
After a year with Hinch/Coolbaugh I’d be surprised if ol Barndoor knows which end of the bat to hold. Like the rest of the team, he seemed confused at the plate and it showed in his performance.. I’m always amused when they talk about the skill of “framing pitches” as if umps are okay with getting tricked. If I were an MLB umpire and a catcher was doing that I’d tell him to knock if off if he ever wanted another real strike called. Anyway, his year in Detroit almost destroyed his value, so I’m glad the guy got a contract and a chance to redeem himself with a batting coach from planet Earth..