Cubs finalizing deal with veteran catcher Tucker Barnhart: reports

The Cubs continue to focus on their up-the-middle defense.

SHARE Cubs finalizing deal with veteran catcher Tucker Barnhart: reports
The Cubs agreed to terms on a two-year contract with veteran catcher Tucker Barnhart.

The Cubs agreed to terms on a two-year contract with veteran catcher Tucker Barnhart.

Kareem Elgazzar/The Cincinnati Enquirer via AP

The Cubs took another step in strengthening their defense up the middle on Thursday, reportedly agreeing to terms on a two-year contract with veteran catcher Tucker Barnhart.

The deal, which includes a second-year player option, is worth $6.5 million, according to multiple reports.

The Cubs will pair Barnhart, 31, with Yan Gomes, who received rave reviews from the pitching staff last year.

Barnhart, a two-time Gold Glover, reflects the Cubs’ focus on the run-prevention side of the catcher position. He hit .221 in 94 games last year. But he adds a left-handed bat to the mix and can switch hit.

Gomes didn’t do much better at the plate in 2022, hitting .235. But in his last multi-year stop, Washington, his offense dipped in his first season before steadily improving.

Between Gomes, Barnhart and PJ Higgins — and potentially Miguel Amaya, depending on his health and development — the Cubs have the catching depth to feel comfortable going into the 2023 season. But they’ll have to replace Willson Contreras’ offensive production through other positions.

Even before Barnhart’s addition, the 2023 Cubs’ most obvious strength was their defense up the middle of the field.

“To me, you’re only as you’re only as good as your four defenders in the middle,” said Cubs shortsop Dansby Swanson, whose seven-year deal the Cubs made official on Wednesday. “Obviously pitching is a big part of it — but centerfield, shortstop, second baseman, catcher. And I feel like the group that we have is pretty elite in that category.”

The Cubs have a dynamic middle infield duo of Swanson and second baseman Nico Hoerner. Cody Bellinger’s signing put a 2019 Gold Glover in center field.

Starting pitcher Jameson Taillon, who the Cubs signed to a four-year deal this month, listed Gomes among the reasons for his decision.

“I’ve heard really, really great things about working with Yan Gomes,” he said.

Barnhart is another catcher with a positive reputation for his management of pitching staffs, a plus especially for a Cubs team that will be relying on plenty of young pitchers in the rotation and bullpen throughout the year.

Reunited

The Cubs are reuniting with a couple former hitting coaches, sources confirmed Thursday. The Cubs promoted Dustin Kelly to major-league hitting coach last month, replacing Greg Brown. But Brown will return next year as a special assistant.

John Mallee, who served as the Cubs hitting coach in 2015-17 and most recently was the Angles’ assistant hitting coach, is returning to the organization as a Triple-A Iowa hitting coach.

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