As fans of the Dodgers continue to sit and wait for news of any signings or trades the team might be making, one can’t help still wonder who will be behind the plate for the majority of the 2019 season.
As it sits right now, the catcher position has Austin Barnes, and that’s it. Unless you count Rocky Gale. The other catcher (If we could’ve called him that) on the 40-man roster was Kyle Farmer, and he was involved in the trade that sent Yasiel Puig to Cincinnati. Barnes appeared in 100 games last season for the Dodgers, slashing a mere .205/.329/.290/.619 and four homers. He only had two hits in 30 at bats in the postseason.
So we all know that Barnes would need to replicate his 2017 campaign, where he went .289/.408/.486/.895 to be a suitable every day backstop. He also has not started the majority of a season yet in his career.
The main circumstance that makes being a Dodger catcher unique is that the team is just in a holding pattern until Kiebert Ruiz, now the Dodgers’ number one prospect, is ready to take over behind the plate, presumably in 2020. There aren’t too many catchers who would want to sign for that little bit of time.
On the trade side, the Dodgers have been in talks with the Miami Marlins for J.T. Realmuto, but the asking price from Derek Jeter and Company still remains very high, as they are asking for Cody Bellinger and a prospect(s) in return. The Dodgers have also been rumored to be in talks with the Pittsburgh Pirates about Francisco Cervelli and are most likely checking in on others as well.
In the meantime, the offers and landing places for Yasmani Grandal are slipping away. He turned down a one year, $17.9 million qualifying offer from the Dodgers to head out into free agency. Yaz also reportedly turned down a four-year, $60 million offer from the Mets. He was also reportedly involved in talks with the Angels, who just signed Jonathan Lucroy to a one-year deal. The Mets ended up signing Wilson Ramos, and the Atlanta Braves, Washington Nationals, Houston Astros and Tampa Bay Rays have all filled their catching deficiencies. Of the teams that still may need a catcher, either they aren’t in the market to pay what Grandal is requesting, or it would be a one year deal, like returning to the Dodgers.
Grandal has a projected WAR of 3.6 next season, which is exactly the same as Realmuto. According to Fangraphs, that would move the Dodgers up to a tie for second in the majors for that position if they were to re-sign him, as opposed to 22nd.
Dodger fans mostly remember Grandal’s abysmal performances in the last two World Series runs, and with good reason. His defense was atrocious. But when Grandal is on, he is on. He can easily hit well over .400 for a month with five or six homers. That is the catch with Grandal—he is incredibly streaky. You just have to hope the hit streaks come at the right time.
A return to the Dodgers makes sense for both sides. It fills in the year gap that the Dodgers have currently, without losing any players they may want to keep, and it gives Grandal a year to reset and get himself ready for free agency again. The Dodgers have the ability to wait this out, as well as the slow moving market as a whole. And wait they will, planning and calculating moves. Whether Grandal is one of these moves remains to be seen, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it happened.