1 free agent the Reds must add at all costs

Detroit Tigers catcher Tucker Barnhart (15) in the dugout.
Detroit Tigers catcher Tucker Barnhart (15) in the dugout. / Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

When you look at the Cincinnati Reds roster heading into the offseason, there are holes all over the place.

The outfield appears to be filled with players who'd be on the bench for most contending teams, the bullpen is loaded with what ifs, and most of the starting pitchers will be heading into just their second year in the big leagues.

But there's one area of concern that must be addressed, and the only way to do so is through free agency. The Reds lost starting catcher Tyler Stephenson to injury on three separate occasions in 2022, and the second-year backstop missed the final two-plus months of the season. Cincinnati must find a capable catcher during free agency this offseason.

The Reds need to sign Tucker Barnhart no matter the cost.

The Cincinnati Reds made the wise, yet unpopular decision, to trade Tucker Barnhart about this time last fall. After seeing Tyler Stephenson prove that he had what it takes to be a major league catcher, Cincinnati chose to deal Barnhart to the Detroit Tigers in exchange for an infield prospect.

It was not the wrong move at the time. Barnhart had a $7.5M team-option and rather than pay the veteran a starter's salary to be a backup, Reds GM Nick Krall got on the phones and worked out a deal the sent the Indiana native to the Motor City.

But, as the Reds enter the 2022-23 offseason, it's painfully obvious that the team needs a capable backup catcher who can not only fill in for Stephenson when necessary, but also help develop the young pitching staff as well.

The trio of Graham Ashcraft, Hunter Greene, and Nick Lodolo all raved about the addition of Austin Romine last August, and it would not be surprising at all to see the veteran return in 2023. But Barnhart would provide that same level of leadership for the Cincinnati pitching staff and add a little more pop from the left side of the batters' box.

That said, Tucker Barnhart struggled at the plate in 2022 with the Detroit Tigers. The left-handed hitting catcher slashed just .221/.287/.267 and posted the lowest OPS+ (64) of his career.

But if the Cincinnati Reds attempt to reunite with Tucker Barnhart, it's his glove, leadership, and affinity for the Queen City that will bring the two sides back together.

The Reds should be in constant contact with Barnhart's representatives and maybe even entertain a mutually beneficial two-year contract. Cincinnati does not have any viable catchers who'll be making their way to he big leagues anytime soon, so signing a veteran catcher should be priority No. 1 for the Reds' front office.

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