We’re still waiting to find out what will happen with Alfonso Rivas and P.J. Higgins following their recent designations, but a recent move may be a precursor of the latter’s departure. Per the MiLB Transactions Twitter account, the Cubs have signed former Rockies catcher Dom Nuñez to a minor league contract. The 27-year-old has been in Colorado’s organization since being selected as the 169th overall pick in 2013 and he has seen action in parts of three MLB seasons.
Though he hasn’t hit well beyond A-ball, Nuñez has stuck around because he knows what he’s doing behind the plate. You don’t last long in baseball when you carry a career .180 batting average and .653 OPS, even if it’s only over 347 plate appearances, so the Rockies clearly valued more than the bat. For what it’s worth, Nuñez has always put up really good walk numbers.
While it may not have significant impact on the organization as a whole, this could signal that Higgins plans to reject his outright assignment to Triple-A. Rivas doesn’t have that ability, but Higgins was outrighted previously and can opt for free agency at this point. If he’s made that choice, or if the Cubs believe he will, Nuñez effectively replaces minor league depth at a spot where the Cubs are relatively light.
It’s pretty much a wash statistically and might actually be a slight upgrade, as Higgins has put up a .210 average with a .639 OBP over 254 big league PAs. Nuñez actually had 10 homers in 2021, a season that saw him accumulate the bulk of his appearances, and his (probably) superior catching skills make up for the lack of versatility. Higgins’ main source of value was the ability to play the corner infield spots, but the Cubs aren’t lacking in those areas.
And who knows, maybe Higgins will end up sticking around. We should find out soon either way.