CINCINNATI — Reds catcher Tucker Barnhart got a chance to play every day when Devin Mesoraco kept getting injured. He turned the opportunity into a $16 million contract Friday.
Barnhart agreed to a four-year deal that covers his salary arbitration years and the first season when he could have become a free agent. It's an indication of how much the young Reds have grown to depend upon him.
"The choice to invest in Tucker was an easy one, because you can see how he influences so many other players on the field," general manager Dick Williams said. "He makes everybody else better. I can't think of a better place to put money into starting a foundation."
He receives a $1.75 million signing bonus and salaries of $4 million next year, $2.5 million in 2019, $3.5 million in 2020 and $3.75 million in 2021. As part of the deal announced Friday, Cincinnati has a $7.5 million option for 2022 with a $500,000 buyout.
Barnhart is making $575,000 and would have been eligible for salary arbitration in the off-season for the first time. He entered Friday batting .272 with six homers and 42 RBIs. He has only one error and leads major league catchers in fielding percentage.
Barnhart became the primary catcher when Mesoraco repeatedly got hurt. Mesoraco has been limited to 95 games the last three seasons and is currently sidelined with a broken left foot. He makes $13 million next season, the last of a $28 million, four-year deal.
The Reds like the way Barnhart handles young pitchers. The Reds have used nine rookie starting pitchers this season, a key factor in another disappointing season. They were last in the NL Central with 87 losses heading into their game Friday against the Red Sox.
The Reds picked Barnhart — who grew up nearby in Indiana — in the 10th round of the 2009 amateur drafr. In the last few years, he's gotten married, became a father and developed into an everyday player.
"It's been like a whirlwind," Barnhart said. "It's surreal. I don't think it's sunk in yet. It probably won't until the off-season, but it's something that I wanted to happen."
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