New Cubs catcher Barnhart likes team's emphasis on run prevention
CHICAGO (AP) — When Tucker Barnhart was looking at his options for next season, he liked the idea of playing his home games at Wrigley Field. The Indiana native heard good things about the Chicago Cubs from Wade Miley, one of his former teammates.
When the Cubs started talking about the importance of run prevention, that really captured Barnhart's attention.
“For me, hearing how highly they value that was a big, big key in making my antennas go up as a place that I wanted to play,” Barnhart said Wednesday in his first public comments since the veteran catcher finalized a $6.5 million, two-year contract last week.
The Cubs have been active this offseason, also agreeing to free-agent deals with shortstop Dansby Swanson, right-hander Jameson Taillon, outfielder Cody Bellinger, and reliever Brad Boxberger. They also brought back left-hander Drew Smyly after he had a 3.47 ERA in 22 starts for the team last year.
Swanson, Bellinger, and Barnhart have all won at least one Gold Glove. Cubs outfielder Ian Happ also won his first Gold Glove last season.
“I mean we're going to have Gold Glovers all over the field,” Barnhart said, “and that says something. I think it gives pitchers a lot of confidence, to know they don't have to be super fine and pitch for the strikeout all the time.”
Barnhart, who turns 32 on Saturday, said he was told by Cubs manager David Ross that he basically would split time behind the plate with Yan Gomes. Willson Contreras was the starting catcher for Chicago last season, but he signed an $87.5 million, five-year contract with St. Louis during free agency.
Barnhart returns to the NL Central after struggling in his only season with Detroit. He spent his first eight seasons with Cincinnati, winning Gold Gloves in 2017 and 2020.
“I had a bad year. I'll be the first one to tell you, and I don't mind saying that,” said Barnhart, who batted .221 in 94 games with the Tigers. “But I think when you're in spots where you have to kind of dig yourself out, you learn the most about yourself, and you learn how to persevere through those situations.”
Also Wednesday, the Cubs announced they had traded right-hander Erich Uelmen to Philadelphia for a cash consideration. Uelmen was designed for assignment when the team finalized its contract with Smyly on Dec. 24.
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