The Dodgers still don’t have a starting catcher. They only have one major league backstop on the 40-man roster and Austin Barnes is still terrible. It’s a big problem that has gone unresolved and it looks like there is no end in sight. Wilson Ramos, a good catcher recently signed with the Mets which removes another available catcher off the boards. The longer Andrew Friedman procrastinates on this the fewer choices the Dodgers will have available and the more likely they’ll be stuck with Barnes as the everyday catcher.
Friedman could have made a decision during the winter meetings but as his usual M.O. he once again did nothing and made no moves during the annual winter meetings. Friedman not doing anything at the winter meetings is as predictable as snow in December, unless you live in Southern California of course.
The logical solution to this conundrum would be to bring back Yasmani Grandal. The now free agent catcher declined the Dodger’s qualifying offer earlier in the offseason in order to test the open market. Grandal has been the Dodger’s primary catcher for four seasons, but unsurprisingly is looking for a big payday as one of the best if not the best catching options on the free agent market. According to Jon Morosi, the Dodgers are open to resigning Grandal.
Here’s the issue, they’re only willing to give Grandal a one-year contract. This could be Grandal’s last chance for a large deal. The 30-year old switch-hitting catcher is probably looking for job security in the form of a multi-year contract. That’s understandable. Most players want job security. At that age it makes sense.
Unfortunately Friedman is far too small market minded to hand anyone a multi-year contract via free agency. There have been a few exceptions like the extensions to Clayton Kershaw, Justin Turner, Rich Hill and Kenley Jansen. Unless you’re an injury riddled pitcher with at least one Tommy John surgery, or a utility player that never bats above the Mendoza line then Friedman is simply not interested.
Perhaps the Dodgers could still work out a swap with the rebuilding Marlins for star catcher J.T. Realmuto? It’s possible but according to reports the Dodgers are unwilling to part with any of their lower level prospects to make it happen. I can understand not wanting to deal Julio Urias, Walker Buehler, Keibert Ruiz or any other organizational prospect. But refusing to part with any of the lower tier prospects just doesn’t make much sense to me.
I would be fine with bringing Grandal back, whether that’s on a one-year deal or a multi-year contract. The Dodgers are banking on one or both of Keibert Ruiz and Will Smith to develop into the catchers of the future in Los Angeles. But if one or both of them turn out to be busts then the Dodgers are stuck with Barnes and little else behind him. I wouldn’t mind seeing Kyle Farmer get a chance for some playing time. But he’s like the Andrew Toles of catching. The Dodgers don’t think much of him and will never give him an extended look.
Regardless of Grandal’s Postseason struggles, he’s still one of the best catchers in baseball. I know a lot of you guys don’t like him but he’s been a very productive slugger. In 2018 he slashed .241/.349/.466 with 24 home runs and 72 walks over 518 plate appearances. He posted a 121 OPS+ last season and smashed 89 home runs as a Dodger. He also rates as one of the best pitch-framers in MLB. He’s good, and while he has his warts, I would take him any day over Barnes.
Ruiz and Smith have no MLB experience to date. The problem persists and the hot stove continues on. If the Dodgers don’t act soon then they’ll be left with no choice but to play Barnes and sign some aging veteran who won’t hit higher than .190, which is about what Barnes will bat in 2019. The Dodgers better get crackin on this.