The Detroit Tigers made their first move of the 2021 offseason less than 24 hours after the final out of the World Series, acquiring catcher Tucker Banhart from the Cincinnati Reds, as first reported by Jon Heyman on Wednesday afternoon. Jason Beck confirmed the news and added that prospect third baseman Nick Quintana is heading to the Queen City in exchange.
Tigers trading 3B prospect Nick Quintana to Reds for catcher Tucker Barnhart, as @cmccosky reported. Barnhart has a $7.5m option for next season.— Jason Beck (@beckjason) November 3, 2021
Barnhart is an eight-year veteran of the big leagues, having spent his entire career with the Reds. He has spent a majority of his time behind the dish, but has also seen reps in the outfield during the 2015 season and has spent some time at first base in each of the past four years. The 30-year-old’s resume includes three Gold Gloves as a catcher and he notched the highest caught stealing rate in the majors in 2017. Barnhart has a reputation as a good leader and game caller, and he was seventh overall in catcher framing last season among qualified catchers. His career slash line at the plate is rather mediocre at .248 BA/.324 OBP/.371 SLG/83 OPS+ but this is offset by his defensive capabilities.
On the other side of the ledger is Nick Quintana, Detroit’s second-round pick in 2019 with the No. 47 selection overall. The third baseman has struggled at the plate in his two seasons in the minors and was unfortunately unable to show much improvement after the COVID year off. While it may feel a little premature to give up on the former Arizona Wildcats’ standout, a straight-up trade for an established veteran feels like a pretty good return for the struggling infielder.
To have any pretense to contending in 2022, the Tigers needed a consistent everyday backstop that A.J. Hinch and the pitching coaches could trust to implement their game plans and provide strong defense. Eric Haase remains a useful backup who will likely see playing time at other positions against left-handed hitters, but his defense isn’t on Barnhart’s level. That they moved so quickly is a function of the limited crop of catchers available. This was one of the tightest positional markets out there, so it’s good to see the Tigers get their man quickly, and for very little return in prospect talent.
Bless You Boys will provide further updates as information becomes available.