Cubs Designate PJ Higgins For Assignment

The Cubs announced they’ve been designated PJ Higgins for assignment. The move opens a spot on the 40-man roster for fellow catcher Tucker Barnhartwho has officially signed a two-year free agent deal.

Higgins, 29, has appeared in the majors in each of the last two seasons. A 12th-round pick back in 2015, he reached the majors in 2021 after six seasons climbing Chicago’s minor league ranks. That first stint proved brief, as Higgins played in just nine games before tearing the UCL in his throwing arm. He required Tommy John surgery and missed the rest of the season. At the end of the year, Chicago ran him through outright waivers rather than reinstate him from the injured list.

The Old Dominion product quickly returned to the only organization he’s known, inking a minor league contract a few weeks later. He spent the first six weeks of the 2022 campaign with Triple-A Iowa before being re-selected onto the MLB roster. The season saw Higgins log his first extensive major league action, as he appeared in 74 games and picked up 229 plate appearances.

It was a fairly successful look, as Higgins posted a .229/.310/.383 line with six home runs and 11 doubles. That was a bit better than the .228/.295/.368 mark compiled by catchers around the league. The right-hander showed decent contact skills and plate discipline, albeit with very modest hard contact numbers. He’s shown a similar high-OBP profile throughout his time in the minors, compiling a .279/.365/.378 line through 2100 career MiLB plate appearances.

While he hit fairly well for the position, Higgins did not rate highly in the eyes of public defensive marks. Statcast rated him a couple runs below average as a pitch framer through 236 innings behind the dish. His arm strength is similarly rated below par, with his average pop time (time to throw to second on a steal attempt) checking in 60th among 73 backstops with 10+ throws. He successfully threw out only three of 16 basestealers. Higgins was also behind the plate for three passed balls and 13 wild pitches in 24 starts as a catcher, with Defensive Runs Saved estimating him as six runs below average overall.

Despite those defensive numbers, Higgins could find some interest from another club on the waiver wire. Catching depth is always in demand, and Higgins has flashed better offensive capabilities than most reserve catchers. Adding to the appeal, Higgins has a full slate of minor league option years remaining. Any team willing to carry him on the 40-man roster could keep him in Triple-A for the foreseeable future. If Higgins were to go unclaimed on waivers, he’d have the right to elect minor league free agency as a player who has previously been outrighted in his career.

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