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Dodgers sign catcher Tucker Barnhart to minor league contract, per reports

MLB: APR 15 Cubs at Dodgers Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Dodgers have signed catcher Tucker Barnhart to a minor league contract, per both Robert Murray of FanSided and Fabian Ardaya at The Athletic, continuing to add veteran options. For what remains to be seen.

Barnhart hit .202/.285/.257 with a home run, three doubles, and a 53 wRC+ in 123 plate appearances for the Cubs, who released him on August 20.

The 32-year-old is a career .243/.319/.356 hitter with a 79 wRC+ in 10 seasons, the first eight of which were with the Reds. Barnhart played for the Tigers in 2022 before signing a one-year deal with the Cubs this season.

None of those numbers necessarily jump off the page, except when considering that Austin Barnes, the Dodgers’ backup catcher, is hitting .165/.235/.209 with a 26 wRC+, even after his .364/.400/.485 hit stretch over his last 11 games, dating back to July 26.

Barnhart’s catcher framing numbers are rated better this season than both Barnes and Will Smith by Baseball Prospectus, FanGraphs, and Baseball Savant.

This feels like more of a “just in case” move, giving the Dodgers another potential postseason catching option should something happen to Barnes or Smith. But there’s also at least the possibility, however likely, that Barnhart could be considered for the postseason roster on merit. Adding him to the organization by the end of August makes this allowable.

Back on August 19, when asked if the Dodgers had considered upgrading the backup catcher position at the trade deadline with Barnes slumping, manager Dave Roberts took a long pause before noting that such a move would not have been his call.

“I think as an organization, you’re always trying to improve your ball club. I do believe though, with Austin, what he’s done for the organization, the success he’s had on both sides of the baseball, the impact he has on the pitching staff, I think it’s more than just a triple slash,” Roberts said. “It’s been a trying year, as he’s said. But we’re very bullish on betting on the person, the player, the track record.

“I think the organization wouldn’t be doing their job if they’re not always trying to upgrade, at whatever position. But at the end of the day, we just believe in what Austin has done and can do for our club and organization.”