DETROIT – The Detroit Tigers have traded prospect Nick Quintana to the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for veteran catcher Tucker Barnhart.
Barnhart, 31, is a left-handed hitting catcher who can compliment the right-handed hitting Eric Haase behind the dish next season. The Tigers will presumably pick up his one-year, $7.5 million team option for 2022.
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“Coming into this off-season, we knew that catcher was a priority position for us,” Detroit Tigers General Manager Al Avila said. “During our strategy meetings over the last couple of weeks in Lakeland with my front office staff, Tucker’s name came up many times as an attractive option for our ball club as someone who is a real plus defender, knows how to lead a pitching staff and is a solid contributor from the batter’s box. After feeling interest from the Reds to make a deal, we moved quickly to make it happen and kick off our off-season transactions.”
In eight seasons with the Reds, Barnhart has racked up 744 games and 2,561 plate appearances. He’s a career .248 hitter with a .324 on-base percentage and .371 slugging percentage. His numbers in 116 games this season were right on par with those career rates.
Barnhart has won two Gold Glove awards in the past five years, including as recently as 2020. He’ll certainly be a strong defensive addition to the Tigers and hold his own at the plate.
“While it’s bittersweet to be leaving the organization that drafted me, I couldn’t be happier to join the Tigers,” Barnhart said. “This is an exciting time for a team that’s undergone such a big transformation over the last few years. A.J. (Hinch) is one of the best managers in all of baseball, and I’m looking forward to working with him, the coaching staff and other teammates to bring the playoffs and a World Series championship back to the Motor City.”
In his career against right-handed pitchers, Barnhart owns a .333 OBP and .722 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage). He’s much less effective (.288 OBP, .583 OPS) against left-handed pitchers.
That bodes well for a potential platoon with Haase, who is coming off a rookie campaign in which he smashed 22 home runs. In 127 plate appearances against left-handed pitchers, Haase hit 11 home runs with a .907 OPS. It took 254 plate appearances against right-handed pitchers for Haase to hit 11 home runs, and he posted a much lower .661 OPS.
Clearly, the Tigers believe a righty-lefty platoon could bring out both Hasse’s and Barnhart’s strengths.
Quintana, a 24-year-old third base prospect drafted by the Tigers in the second round of the 2019 draft, probably became tradable as the infield stabilized at the upper levels of the organization. Jeimer Candelario solidified himself as the team’s third baseman of the future, while prospects Isaac Paredes, Kody Clemens and others provide MLB-ready depth.
This season with Single-A Lakeland, Quintana hit .196 with a .329 OBP and .346 slugging percentage. He hit 16 doubles and nine home runs while showing promising plate discipline (51 walks to 73 strikeouts in 347 plate appearances).
The World Series went final Tuesday night, with the Atlanta Braves taking down the Houston Astros. It didn’t even take 24 hours for the Tigers to start maneuvering toward a more competitive 2022, and that could be a great sign for the rest of the offseason.
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Detroit still needs to add a shortstop and starting pitching if it hopes to compete for a playoff spot next summer.