Last year, one of the more grim parts of a dreadful baseball offseason was when Yasmani Grandal, one of the best players in baseball, was offered a one-year/$18.25 million deal with the Milwaukee Brewers and it could not be topped. The catcher had to settle with a deal that barely surpassed the recent qualifying offer he had just turned down from the Dodgers. It was a steal for the Brewers and Grandal was robbed.
Now a free agent once again, Grandal looks to give this another go. He’s coming off a 5.2 fWAR season (his fifth straight season with at least four wins) and now ranks 12th out of 344 qualified hitters in that department since 2015. He’s not just one of the better players in all of baseball, but one of the top models of consistency within the game and the standard for catcher value. One would think him being available should draw plenty of suitors.
During Grandal’s last turn at free agency, he reportedly received interest from the Dodgers, Brewers, Reds, Angels, Mets, and White Sox, all to varying degrees. The only two teams that were reported to make offers were the Mets, with their withdrawn offer of a 4-year/$64 million contract, and of course the Brewers. After the Mets withdrew their offer, one of the best players in baseball could not find a suitable multi-year offer from a single contending team. The look was bad.
FanGraphs recently rated Grandal as the sixth-best free agent available this offseason (he ranked eighth last year). The median crowdsourced contract for Grandal was listed at three years/$48 million.
If you haven’t looked, you may not believe it: Grandal has posted five straight seasons of 4 or 5 WAR. In a catching landscape that increasingly looks like a Mad Max film, the backstop keeps performing, though I’m sure his fingers are crossed that robo umps are still a ways off given his +134 runs career framing figure. He reportedly turned down four years and $60 million from the Mets last offseason because a $15 million AAV wasn’t the precedent he wanted to set, then had to settle for one year and $18.25 million from Milwaukee (just above the qualifying offer he turned down). He seems likely to get at least the Mets’ offer again given his 5.2 WAR season, and I’m betting his deal comes in at a bit more.
While it would seem easy for a valuable player like Grandal to garner a contract like that, the expectation vs. reality off last off-season is worth considering. The FanGraphs median crowdsource had Grandal pinned for an even lesser three-year/$45 million contract before that.
What’s also worth considering is that catcher is now deeper than it was last year.
- Number of teams >= 2.0 fWAR at catcher: 2018 - 14, 2019 - 15
- Number of teams >= 2.5 fWAR at catcher: 2018 - 10, 2019 - 13
- Number of teams >= 3.0 fWAR at catcher: 2018 - 8, 2019 - 11
- Number of teams >= 5.0 fWAR at catcher: 2018 - 1, 2019 - 5
These numbers certainly aren’t too assuring that a repeat of last offseason won’t happen. The case to sign Grandal is there for plenty of teams. Contenders or near-contenders like the Astros, Blue Jays, Rays, Reds (already reported to have interest), Padres, Nationals, White Sox, Athletics, Cardinals, Angels, and Rangers all could take a massive stride at the catcher position with Grandal behind the plate.
Having essentially all of Major League Baseball not being able to top a one-year/$18.25 million deal for one of baseball’s elites in the prime of their career was a bad look for the sport. For the sake of avoiding that repeat occurrence and for the sake of Grandal, there will hopefully be plenty of interest to go around.