Cincinnati Reds sign Tucker Barnhart to contract extension

(Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
(Photo by David Banks/Getty Images) /

The Cincinnati Reds signed Tucker Barnhart to be their starting catcher in 2018 and beyond.

The Cincinnati Reds signed to a $16-million, four-year contract with a fifth year option.  With performance bonuses, it would max out at $24.5-million.  These numbers include a $1.75-million signing bonus.

These numbers show the Reds’ commitment to Barnhart and their resignation regarding Devin Mesoraco.  $4-million may not be starter’s numbers for most teams, but it is for the Reds.  They are still rebuilding and money isn’t doled out excessively.

This contract could last five years and cover Barnhart’s first two years of free agent eligibility.  These are the sort of moves that you see from a team getting ready to contend.  Buying out years of arbitration and free agency became vogue in the 1990s with the success of the Cleveland Indians.

This version of the Reds has a similar pitching set-up to the Atlanta Braves of the 1990s.  That makes it appropriate that the Reds emulate the Indians of the 90s as well.  The Braves and the Indians were the best two teams in baseball in the 90s thanks to these plans.

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This signing puts Barnhart ahead of the oft-injured, former All-Star Mesoraco.  Barnhart this year has become a better play caller and a leader.  He also held it together offensively all season after breaking down in the second half of 2016.

Tucker Barnhart deserves his position atop the catching depth chart for the Cincinnati Reds.

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This season Barnhart batted .270 with an OBP of .347.  He tied his career high with 7 home runs and set a new high with 42 walks.  He also had a surprising four steals.

More importantly than his offensive numbers, Barnhart played more games than at any point in his MLB career.  Behind the plate he actually started one fewer game thanks to the support of Mesoraco, Stuart Turner and Chad Wallach, the other player in the Mat Latos deal.

All three of them have fatal flaws.

Mesoraco’s  health may force him off the team this winter.  When healthy he can be explosive, but that is too infrequent.

Turner and Wallach both need more development.  Turner appears to be an established defensive catcher, but has definite offensive weakness.  Wallach needs a little help on both fronts.

Next: Reds could be the 1990s Atlanta Braves

That brings it back to Barnhart.  He is good enough both offensively and defensively to lead the pitching staff into the next phase of the rebuild.  It is a good sign that the Reds spent money supporting the team moving forward.