The Cincinnati Reds only have one catcher on their 40-man roster as things sit right now. And while Tyler Stephenson is a good catcher he’s not going to be the only catcher on the roster and Cincinnati is going to have to add at least one more catcher to the roster. One of those options could be former Reds catcher Tucker Barnhart.
Mark Sheldon of Reds.com reported that the two sides have been in touch, but that for now Barnhart is looking for a team that he could be a starter for. Barnhart, a 2-time Gold Glove winner – both with the Reds – has always been known more for his defensive abilities than his bat, but he had always done enough with the bat to warrant starting given his defense.
After being traded to the Detroit Tigers in November of 2021 for prospect Nick Quintana, Barnhart struggled to get much going at the plate in 2022 as he moved to the American League. The 31-year-old hit .221/.287/.267 with one home run in 94 games with the Tigers this past season. His 64 OPS+ and .554 OPS were both easily the worst of his career in a season where he got 100 plate appearances.
Detroit’s ballpark isn’t quite as hitter friendly as Great American Ball Park. For a player like Barnhart, who has limited over-the-wall power, a ballpark could make a bigger difference than it would for someone with a little more power.
For Barnhart it makes sense to explore options a while longer to see if he can find a team where he would – in theory at least – get more playing time than he would be expected to get in Cincinnati. He understands that with the Reds he would be the backup option, and while in today’s game that doesn’t mean being on the bench 135 times in a season since hardly any catcher plays that often – and now that there is the designated hitter option in the National League teams can utilize that to get a little more rest for the #1 catcher if his bat plays well – seeking a place where he could be on the field more when it’s still November is the right move.
Whether a team is out there that’s willing to give that opportunity to Barnhart is another question. He’s coming off of his worst year as a professional and he’s five seasons past his best year at the plate. Barnhart hit .258/.339/.330 from August 1st through the end of the season. That’s in line with where he has been for much of his career, so perhaps he and his agent can sell that to teams that may be interested in his services.