For eight seasons, the Cincinnati Reds employed Tucker Barnhart as the team's QB1. Barnhart suited up as the Reds backstop in over 700 games, where he hit .248/.324/.371. Barnhart's productivity, durability, and likability made it hard for Reds fans to cope with his departure in 2022.
Following his 2022 season with the Detroit Tigers, where he put up a subpar performance, Barnhart entered free agency this past winter.
The Reds spent the 2023 offseason in desperate need of help behind the plate. Tyler Stephenson went on the IL three times, and Cincinnati employed seven different backstops in 2022.
The Reds made the right choice signing this catcher instead of Tucker Barnhart.
Tucker Barnhart seemed like a good option. The left-handed hitting catcher spent nearly a decade in the Queen City, built tremendous relationships with the team as a whole and the pitching staff, became a fan favorite, and won two Gold Gloves. The choice to sign Barnhart seemed like something out of a fairytale.
But, despite all signs pointing to Barnhart, the Reds signed Luke Maile, a seven-year MLB veteran that held a career batting average just above .200. Barnhart ended up signing a two-year deal with the Chicago Cubs.
Almost two months into the 2023 season, it would appear the Reds made the correct choice. The two catchers have put together similar workloads each totaling between 50 and 60 at-bats. Barnhart has accumulated just 10 hits with one of them coming for extra bases. On the other hand, Maile has 13 hits in eight fewer plate appearances, while slugging three home runs and two doubles.
The 2023 season is far from over, so it's too early to tell which of these veteran catchers are going to finish the season as more of an asset to their team. At the moment, however, Cincinnati made a wise choice inking Luke Maile to a one-year/$1.18-million contract.