Is it time for Dodgers to move on from Yasmani Grandal?

The Dodgers are an organization stacked in both major and minor league talent and especially so at catcher. With Austin Barnes and Kyle Farmer already at the big league level, the team also has Keibert Ruiz, Will Smith, and Connor Wong in the minors as the sixth, eighth, and 23rd overall prospects. This new wave of talent is reason enough for the Dodgers to shop former everyday catcher, Yasmani Grandal, and should consider trading him if the right offer presents itself.

When there are too many players at a certain position it becomes difficult to get everyone playing time. This especially holds true for catchers, as consistency between pitcher and backstop is crucial to the success of a team. So, to develop this rhythm, teams will usually carry two catchers on the roster so not to hold up a roster spot with a third catcher but also to keep the rotation of who plays behind the plate tight and predictable. Next year, without a trade, the Dodgers would be rolling out a three man catching squad with Barnes, Farmer, and Grandal and that alone is reason to get rid of one catcher.

After last year’s success, Austin Barnes has undoubtedly earned the starting job and he should maintain that status through next year. His ability to hit, play second base, and play very good defense will seal the deal for him after spring training. There is no situation in my mind in which the Dodgers trade Austin Barnes so you can confidently count on the fact that he will be on the team next year and ready to work.

When finally given the opportunity, Austin Barnes proved that he was the Dodgers’ best overall catcher on both sides of the ball this past season. (Photo credit – Gary A. Vasquez)

Following Barnes should be Kyle Farmer. Farmer has the ability to play catcher, third base, and first base, and that trio of positions should allow him to be a solid backup option. Farmer has proven that once he gets comfortable at the plate, his batting average and on-base percentage increase and should be good enough to be used every fourth day and in pinch hitting spots. While he is young and still very inexperienced, I would be willing to put money on the fact that the Dodgers make him a regular in the lineup due to his position flexibility and batting ability.

That leaves us with Yasmani Grandal.

If all goes as mentioned, Grandal will be left as the third catcher heading into next year, and that would almost certainly relegate him to a pinch hitting role. His defense has never been strong enough to make him a go-to backup defender and many people would counter that with, “his pitch framing is the best in baseball.” Pitch framing is the most overrated statistic in all of sports. Anyone who plays catcher at the big league level knows how to frame a pitch. But, when pitch framing causes a catcher to move his glove too early and allow balls to roll to the backstop, a catcher’s ability to get an extra strike call or two per game becomes useless.

Grandal has led the league in passed balls in three of the past four season including last year where he let 16 go behind him. Not only did he allow 16 passed balls but he also cost the Dodgers at least one game. Grandal allowed a ball to go all the way back to the backstop in Anaheim and handed the Angels a win they should not have gotten. So, not only is his framing coming at the expense of good defense but, he is costing the Dodgers wins.

Although not a passed ball, Grandal’s inability to block strike three in the dirt against Angels slugger Cameron Maybin in the bottom of the ninth on June 28, 2017 allowed Angels left fielder Ben Revere to take third. Grandal then air mailed the ball over Dodger first baseman Chase Utley‘s head to complete the rare walk-off strikeout. “Drive. Home. Safely.” (Video capture courtesy of MLB.com – Click on image to view video)

Beyond defensive issues, Grandal’s offensive abilities are not good enough, in my opinion, to warrant him another season on a team looking to win now. And while he did hit 22 home runs this past season, he also struck out 130 times and hit just .172 with runners in scoring position. His overall stats were, however, good enough to earn him an overall season WAR of 2.2. But perhaps of greater importance is that he would undoubtedly draw from teams looking to fill a catching vacancy.

There is one rather significant glitch with this whole Grandal trade thing. The 29-year-old La Habana, Cuba native just completed a one-year / $5.5 million arbitration-avoiding contract with the Dodgers in 2017. As such, he is entering his third and final year of arbitration eligibility in 2018. In other words, the Dodgers will undoubtedly have to pay him considerably more than they did in 2017 to avoid an arbitration hearing in 2018. The begs the burning question: Do the Dodgers really want to give him what figures to be a hefty pay raise just to turn around and trade him? If so, they might be running the risk of not finding a suitable trade partner for him and could be left hold the bag for something in the $8 to $10 million range.

That said, if the Dodgers do decide to avoid arbitration with Grandal and do indeed give him another one-year deal, he might actually be at the forefront of trade discussions. He was productive enough last year to potentially bring back a good haul to the Dodgers. But while he was “good enough,” the Dodgers are at the point where excellence should be the standard, and Grandal is just not that guy anymore.

It will be interesting to see where the Dodgers go from here, but Grandal’s fate seems somewhat obvious.

 

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6 Responses to “Is it time for Dodgers to move on from Yasmani Grandal?”

  1. Respect the Rivalry says:

    “His defense has never been strong enough to make him a go-to backup defender. . .”
    Right on, Jacob.
    “Pitch framing is the most overrated statistic in all of sports.”
    Again, right on.
    “Beyond defensive issues, Grandal’s offensive abilities are not good enough, in my opinion, to warrant him another season on a team looking to win now.”
    Three for three.
    On the other hand, Austin plays catcher like Rogie Vachon used to play goalie.
    I likely just got a “huh?” from you. Some of the other old guys here will understand that.

  2. SoCalBum says:

    Yes, it is time. Team needs continuity between pitchers and catchers, so moving Grandal to a new team before ST is good for the new team and good for the Dodgers to get Farmer and Smith innings in ST to catch Kershaw, Hill, Ryu, etc. before the season starts. Are Dodgers comfortable with Farmer and Smith IF Barnes is injured and has an extended stay on the DL? I don’t know the answer, but would not be surprised for Dodgers to acquire an older, veteran catcher (perhaps one that hits LH) to backup Barnes with Farmer as a utility player and 3rd string catcher.

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