Arizona Diamondbacks sign Tucker Barnhart to a minor league deal

The Arizona Diamondbacks have added some catching depth by signing veteran Tucker Barnhart to a minor league contract.

Jun 20, 2023; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Chicago Cubs catcher Tucker Barnhart (18) looks to the
Jun 20, 2023; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Chicago Cubs catcher Tucker Barnhart (18) looks to the / Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona Diamondbacks have signed Tucker Barnhart to a minor league deal, according to Robert Murray. The veteran backstop will likely head into camp to compete for the backup catcher role. As of right now, young star Gabriel Moreno has the position on lockdown, but the D-Backs had very little depth behind him. As Rene recently covered, this was a position the D-Backs needed to look into.

Barnhart signed a two-year, $6.5 million contract with the Chicago Cubs last off-season. But Barnhart batted a mere .202/.285/.257 with a .250 wOBA and 53 wRC+ in 123 plate appearances. Barnhart had a solid 9.8% walk rate but struck out in 34.1% of his plate appearances. He’s never been considered a power hitter, but 2023 marked the second season in a row he had a sub-.100 isolated slugging percentage, clocking in at 0.55.

Barnhart rated poorly with the glove in 2022 but rebounded in 2023. He may have had zero defensive runs saved, but +4.3 framing runs in 312.2 innings, which happens to be the best remark of his career. He had a slightly above-average pop time, but his throws averaged just 78.5 MPH. He allowed no passed balls but was worth -1 blocking runs.

While Barnhart’s defense may have been solid, the Cubs still designated him for assignment in late August before being released as both Miguel Amaya and Yan Gomes were handling the position much better than Barnhart. He finished off his year with the Dodgers and their Triple-A team, appearing in seven games and only having five hits in 27 plate appearances. The Houston Astros had also shown interest in Barnhart, but it seems like the Diamondbacks came out on top.

Barnhart isn’t the only player in consideration for the backup catcher role. Jose Herrera served that role last year and ended the campaign with similar hitting numbers as Barnhart, albeit with worse defense. The D-Backs also signed former Boston Red Sox’s catching prospect Rondaldo Hernandez to a minor league deal. He is more of a bat-first backup option.

Of course, while Moreno is expected to be the regular catcher next year, it is nice to have some solid depth. For what it’s worth, Barnhart may have the inside track as the backup catcher option so he can reunite with Eduardo Rodriguez. Barnhart caught 14 of Rodriguez’s 17 games in 2022 and had a 3.65 ERA when he was receiving. We shall see how the second catcher role plays out as it probably will be decided during Spring Training.