The Detroit Tigers have reached an agreement with the Cincinnati Reds to acquire veteran catcher Tucker Barnhart, the teams announced Wednesday. In return, the Reds will add infield prospect Nick Quintana to their farm system.
The Tigers will exercise the club option in Barnhart's contract that dictates that he'll receive $7.5 million next season. In Barnhart, they're getting an above-average defensive backstop who boasts some on-base chops against right-handed pitchers. Over the last three seasons, he's hit .246/.331/.399 when he's had the platoon advantage, as opposed to .235/.318/.375 overall.
The key for the Tigers is Barnhart's defense. The two-time Gold Glove winner represents a noticeable upgrade over Detroit's incumbent options behind the plate. Barnhart is an above-average framer who is regarded as having a good feel for managing a pitching staff. That ought to make him an asset for the Tigers, who have a number of young arms in their rotation, including former No. 1 pick Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal, and Matt Manning.
If nothing else, it would make sense for manager AJ Hinch to platoon Barnhart with Eric Haase, a righty who hit surprisingly well (104 OPS+) in 2021.
The Tigers are expected to remain aggressive on the free-agent and trade markets this winter. Their projected Opening Day payroll, even with Barnhart in tow, is now around $90 million, according to Cot's Contracts. (Barnhart is, impressively, tied as their second-highest paid player.) Detroit could be a fit for any number of the top free agents, including the big-name shortstops and outfielder Starling Marte.
In Quintana, the Reds add a former second-round pick who hasn't taken well to pro ball. In two minor-league seasons, he's hit .190/.299/.308 with 11 home runs and a 26 percent strikeout rate. At this point, it's probably fair to categorize Cincinnati's main motivation for this trade as wanting to shed salary.