3 early contract extensions the Reds should pursue

PHILADELPHIA, PA - AUGUST 15: Jesse Winker #33 of the Cincinnati Reds in action. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - AUGUST 15: Jesse Winker #33 of the Cincinnati Reds in action. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) /
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Tucker Barnhart #16 of the Cincinnati Reds.
CINCINNATI, OHIO – AUGUST 18: Tucker Barnhart #16 of the Cincinnati Reds. (Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images) /

3. Tucker Barnhart, Reds catcher

This one may surprise some fans, but I think it is imperative for the Cincinnati Reds and Tucker Barnhart to restructure the catcher’s current contract. The Reds face a huge dilemma heading into the offseason; should Cincinnati pick up Barnhart’s $7.5M option?

Man, that’s a loaded question, isn’t it? Barnhart is taking home $3.75M this season, which, given his defensive prowess alone, is a bargain. However, the Reds hold a $7.5M team option for next season with a $500K buyout. If the Reds allow Barnhart to walk, there’s no doubt that another franchise will pick up the two-time Gold Glove Award-winner without batting an eye.

Barnhart is a stalwart defensive catcher who’s put up solid offensive numbers this season. Barnhart’s .744 OPS is just off his career-best mark of .750 that a he set in 2017. Oddly enough, it was that season that Barnhart signed the four-year extension with the Reds.

Barnhart is a leader on this Reds’ team, but the heir apparent to the backstop position in Cincinnati appears ready to take over full-time duties behind the dish. Tyler Stephenson has been as advertised with a .285 batting average and an .812 OPS. Stephenson has also come up clutch time and again in 2021. Is he ready to take over full-time catching duties in 2022?

I’d say yes, but that doesn’t mean that the Reds won’t need a capable backup. Would Tucker Barnhart, who loves the city of Cincinnati, lives a couple of hours away in Indianapolis, and is beloved by the fanbase, be willing to restructure his current contact in order to stay part of the Reds organization?

Would Barnhart, like Scott Rolen did in prior to the 2010 season, be willing extend his existing deal and defer the $7.5M over a two-to-three year period while also lowering his yearly salary? That may be the best case scenario for both the Reds and Barnhart. Will it happen? Only time will tell.

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The Reds could always exercise Barnhart’s $7.5M option as well, but that’s a lot of money to pay for a rotational catcher who provides more defense than offense. Other players the Reds should consider extending a contract to before the season ends are Nick Castellanos (though he’s unlikely to sign), Wade Miley (who also has a team-option), and the aforementioned Luis Castillo.