Barnhart trade opens door for Stephenson to be Reds’ everyday catcher

Reds acquire minor league third baseman from Detroit in deal

Tucker Barnhart said goodbye to the Cincinnati Reds, the city he called home for the last eight seasons and all his fans Wednesday after being traded to the Detroit Tigers.

“Cincinnati ... what can I say,” Barnhart wrote on Twitter. “From the moment I was drafted in 2009, you welcomed an 18-year-old kid and made me feel like a member of your city. I will forever be indebted to the Reds and the city for treating my family and me with grace.”

The two-time Gold Glove winner Barnhart, 31, started his career in the organization as a 10th-round pick. He worked his way to the big leagues in 2014 and never left. He now moves on to the Tigers, who dealt minor league third baseman Nick Quintana, 24, to the Reds for Barnhart.

Barnhart has a $7.5 million club option for the 2022 season, so the Reds saved some money with the the trade.

“We just have to make sure that our resources and our payroll are aligned,” Reds General Manager Nick Krall told reporters on a Zoom call.

The move opens the door for Tyler Stephenson to become the every-day catcher. Barnhart started 97 games last season and hit .247 with seven home runs and 48 RBIs. Stephenson started 82 as a rookie, hitting .285 with 10 home runs and 45 RBIs.

“He’s going to be the regular catcher,” Krall said. “He showed this year that he has the ability. He did a great job offensively — but also leading the pitching staff. We feel that he’s going to grow nicely into this role.”

Stephenson was at the dentist when he saw the trade news on his Apple watch. He thanked Barnhart on Twitter, writing, “I wouldn’t be where I am today without Tucker as a mentor and and a teammate. Wish you nothing but the best moving forward.”

Stephenson had similar praise during his own Zoom interview.

“From day one, he kind of welcomed me in,” Stephenson said. “There’s nothing bad to say about the guy. He’s a true competitor and a professional. Outside of that, I understand the situation with the front office and the team believing in me. I’m excited to fill his role moving forward. There’s a lot to look forward to for next year.”

The Reds will now seek to find a backup catcher. They have Mark Kolozsvary, who played for the U.S. Olympic team last summer and hit .221 in 59 games with Double-A Chattanooga and Triple-A Louisville, on the roster, but Krall said they would like to find someone to complement Stephenson.

Barnhart was a career .248 hitter with the Reds. His best season at the plate came in 2017 when he hit .270. He won his first Gold Glove that season and won the award again in the 60-game 2020 season.

Barnhart goes from a franchise that enjoyed two winning seasons in his eight years and finished last four times to a franchise that has suffered five straight losing seasons and has finished last four times in the last seven seasons.

“All of this has happened so fast,” Barnhart said. “I haven’t been able to really process it a ton. But the thing I keep going back to is just being thankful for crossing paths with so many great people in my career so far. Obviously, there are so many more days and hopefully years to come in my career, and I can’t wait for what’s ahead. But the Reds drafted me in 2009 when I was 18. I’ll be 31 in January. So for nearly half of my life, I’ve been around some some incredible people and been fortunate to cross paths with a lot of very great people. It is bittersweet, but it is one of those things where, in my opinion, for me professionally and for my family, personally, this is a wonderful thing for us. I think the best version of Tucker Barnhart on the baseball field is now and is in the future. So I’m excited as hell to be a part of this organization and I really look forward to building on what they’ve built here so far, and I’m really looking forward to the future.”

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