The Cubs appear to have prioritized former Red Sox and Astros catcher Christian Vázquez as the replacement for Willson Contreras, but a number of unresolved factors could push that market in several different directions. A Sean Murphy trade is the biggest of those, then it’s a matter of how his destination impacts the market for Contreras and perhaps Vázquez as well. From that point, Vázquez is likely to prioritize a team that can guarantee him the most playing time.
The Cubs are probably among those, but they’re still looking at giving a significant share of their 2023 innings to Yan Gomes as well. Given all the uncertainty, the front office is keeping its options open. That includes former Reds backstop Tucker Barnhart, who we’d listed as an under-the-radar possibility back in October. Patrick Mooney and Sahadev Sharma are reporting that Barnhart is actually on the radar now, which would mean Jed Hoyer is very serious about adding firepower elsewhere.
Barnhart had a pretty rough offensive campaign in Detroit, a common theme among Tigers hitters, but he finished with a 99 wRC+ across his last 110 plate appearances. He also provides flexibility as a switch-hitter, something he got back to this past season after batting only left-handed in 2020 and ’21. Even if he ditched the right side again, having a lefty batter to platoon with Gomes would be a plus.
That said, the two-time Gold Glove winner would lean more heavily defense-first than either Vázquez or Omar Narváez, another catcher who’s been mentioned as a Cubs target. Such a deal would probably only make sense if Hoyer is able to land Carlos Correa or the white whale of two shortstops at the same time. That scenario is viable even if it’s not likely, and landing any of the three would represent a big improvement up the middle and at the plate with Nico Hoerner sliding to second.
I personally love the idea of adding Barnhart for entirely selfish reasons, but I also think he’d work really well with the Cubs’ young pitchers while providing solid defense and leadership.