The Dodgers are without a starting catcher right now after Yasmani Grandal declined the 17.9 million dollar qualifying offer from the Dodgers in order to test the free agent market. That makes Grandal an unrestricted free agent and the Dodgers a restricted team without a primary backstop. This is a story that really intrigues me. With the free agent market razor thin and the Dodgers loaded with undeveloped and inexperienced catching prospects, the Dodgers have options, but no clear path to deciding who their starting catcher will be.
One thing is crystal clear; it can’t be Austin Barnes in 2019. Barnes not only fell off offensively in 2018, he fell off a cliff. The 28-year old was one of the worst hitters in the majors last year. Overall Barnes slashed a pathetic .205/.329/.290 with 4 home runs and 14 runs drive in. Barnes had more strikes outs (67) than hits (41), and his OPS+ of 72 is one of the most punch-less marks in the majors.
It should be obvious to everyone within the organization that Barnes can’t be the starting catcher next season. Automatic outs should never ever be in the starting lineup, I don’t care how good they are defensively. But Andrew Friedman’s recent comments in the Orange County Register concern me. Check this out….
“If you look at 2018 for Barnesy it is very out of whack for the rest of his career,” Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said last week. “So I feel very confident there is a better version in there offensively. And then defensively he is really good and the way he prepares, the relationships with the pitchers are very strong. So a catcher – it’s not just about what they OPS. It’s also how much they help on the run prevention side and Barnesy is really good on that front.”
I guess you could say that Barnes was so bad last year that he can only improve in 2019. Because I don’t think anyone, including Barnes himself could hit any worse than he did in 2018. However that doesn’t mean we want someone who can barely hit above the Mendoza line as the starting catcher.
But to say that his historically pathetic 2018 was not in line with his career numbers is not paying attention to career numbers. Barnes has had just one….ONE productive season with the bat so far. He’s only played in four MLB seasons. The first two he appeared in only 20 games each. Surely it’s not entirely about what you OPS, but he can’t be an automatic out. And he was absolutely one in 2018.
Look, I like Barnes in general. He’s a strong catcher. He’s got good hands, skilled pitch-framer and works well with the pitching staff. But he can’t hit. He’s never put up good hitting numbers at any level (with exception to his 2017 season where he posted a 138 OPS+). But let’s not pretend like he could be the starting catcher next season. I hope Barnes can regain his stroke in 2018, but if he can’t then it’s time for the Dodgers to either go out and get some upper level talent, like a Realmuto, or let the kids catch.
“I will bet on him this winter to diagnose, fix and get himself in a good position going into spring training,”
Sigh. Wake up Andrew.