As expected, the Cubs officially announced the signing of Tucker Barnhart on Thursday. What was not as expected, however, is how they made room for him on the roster. Despite having 23 pitchers on the 40-man, catcher P.J. Higgins was designated for assignment.
Higgins wasn’t an offensive juggernaut by any stretch, but he was right around league-average offensive production and six homers in 229 plate appearances. He also spent a lot of time at first base while playing a little third as well, two areas where the Cubs need depth. Perhaps this indicates they’ve got other moves in the works.
It’s also possible Higgins will clear waivers and accept his assignment to Triple-A. In the end, it was just a matter of having enough catchers and going with more experience for a team that is trying to maximize value from pitching and defense.
The 31-year-old Barnhart is a two-time N.L. Gold Glove award-winner who has played in all or part of nine major league seasons with Cincinnati (2014-21) and Detroit (2022). Since his major league debut in 2014, Barnhart’s .997 fielding percentage behind the plate leads active catchers while his 140 caught stealings since 2016 rank second among all catchers behind J.T. Realmuto (162).
Barnhart was the Reds’ nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award for representing baseball through extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions in 2018 and 2020. In 2016 and 2019 he won the Joe Nuxhall Good Guy Award, which is voted on by the local chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America.