The Diamondbacks are signing catcher/corner infielder P.J. Higgins to a minor league contract, reports Jon Heyman of the New York Post (Twitter link). He’ll be in big league camp as a non-roster Spring Training invitee.
Higgins, 29, joins the second organization of his career. He’d spent his first eight seasons with the Cubs after being drafted out of Old Dominion in the 12th round in 2015. Higgins slowly climbed the minor league ladder and reached the big leagues for the first time in 2021. He played in nine games before suffering a torn UCL in his throwing elbow that required Tommy John surgery and ended his season.
Chicago ran him through outright waivers after the season but quickly brought him back on a minor league contract. Higgins made the MLB roster in May and tallied 229 plate appearances over 74 games last year. He hit .229/.310/.383, connecting on six home runs while walking at a quality 9.6% clip. He struck out in a little more than a quarter of his trips but generally posted solid offensive numbers for a catcher.
Higgins didn’t perform as well behind the dish, however. He split his defensive time roughly evenly between catcher and first base. In 236 innings as a backstop, he was behind the plate for 13 wild pitches and three passed balls. He had below-average arm strength and cut down only three of 19 attempted basestealers (a 15.8% success rate). Paired with below-average pitch framing marks, Higgins rated a cumulative six runs below average as a catcher, as estimated by Defensive Runs Saved. He graded out as a roughly average defender at first base and also picked up a pair of starts at the hot corner.
After the season, Chicago signed Tucker Barnhart to pair with Yan Gomes at catcher. The Cubs ran Higgins through waivers for a second time, and he again hit minor league free agency. This time, he’ll depart the organization for an opportunity to vie for reps in Arizona.
The D-Backs have three catchers on the 40-man roster. Rookie Gabriel Moreno will be the starter before long after coming over from the Blue Jays in the Daulton Varsho trade. Carson Kelly looks likely to settle into a backup role at that point, while José Herrera could head back to Triple-A Reno as a depth option.
Higgins adds some upper level depth behind them and a right-handed bat to potentially vie for some reps in the infield. He’s a .279/.365/.378 hitter over parts of seven minor league campaigns. He still has all three option years remaining, so the D-Backs would be able to shuttle him between Phoenix and Reno if he eventually grabs a 40-man roster spot.