The Yasmani Grandal trade rumors began as far back as the beginning of the 2017 playoffs, when the management crew of the Dodgers started to make clear that Austin Barnes was the preferred catcher of choice for the postseason, and perhaps the chief catcher moving forward. Now that Grandal is ready to embark on his walk-year, everyone around baseball is anticipating that Los Angeles will deal the 29-year-old switch-hitter before the deadlines this summer.
A trade, though, is always much easier said than done. As the beginning of spring training approaches, there’s really not much demand for starting catchers around baseball, which is a rarity in itself. Yet, besides having to find a potential suitor for Grandal, the Dodgers need to be sure that they have enough cover behind the dish at the big league level.
It’s evident that Barnes has what it takes to handle the primary duties behind the plate, and it’s obvious he has the talent to excel there. In addition, the Dodgers seemingly have a capable backup in Kyle Farmer, who is probably ready to be a full-time big leaguer. But the problem could lie in the depth beyond Farmer—what happens in the event of an injury? Last season was was of those infrequent years for Los Angeles which didn’t see any of it’s catchers spend time on the disabled list, and if 2018 ends up proving to be the opposite, the club could be in a bit of trouble if they deal Grandal too soon.
With Farmer assuming the understudy role to Barnes in the event of a Grandal exodus, that pretty much leaves the catching duties at Triple-A Oklahoma City to Will Smith and 19-year-old Keibert Ruiz, as Jack Murphy and Wynston Sawyer became free agents, and veteran Bobby Wilson was already snatched up by the Twins.
Personally, I’m a huge supporter of Smith, and I think he’ll play big as a major league catcher down the road, but I’d much rather see him play a half season at OKC before the possibility of an emergency call exists. So, in an ideal world, at least for me, if there is a trade, I’d much rather it be towards the deadlines. Or, perhaps if the management crew believes a Grandal deal is imminent, they sign a journeyman catcher to help groom Smith at Triple-A until they feel he’s ready.
And for a team with perennial championship aspirations and quite a bit of financial flexibility, the Dodgers conceivably don’t even need to deal Grandal at all. Two solid catchers for a full year is a huge bonus, and could only be beneficial heading into the 2018 postseason. Some believe that Grandal developed an attitude once he lost the primary job to Barnes, but after all, he’ll be in his walk year, and his performance will certainly have an impact on his future. And if Grandal would Garner a start every third or fourth game consistently throughout 2018, he’d still rake in about 200 or ABs or so, anyway.
Sure, knowing that Grandal will be headed for free agency, it would be nice to get a profitable haul in a trade. But what the front office needs to decide is whether or not a deal supersedes the luxury of having perhaps the best catching tandem in baseball all season long. Besides, it’s not like the Dodgers are a bottom feeder club which needs to manage it’s finances frugally, as they can surely shoulder the thought of letting a player walk without netting a some kind of return.
In the end, the prudent move may be to keep Grandal—unless a prospective deal is too good to pass up, in which case the Dodgers should pull the trigger right away.
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