The Milwaukee Brewers have agreed to a one-year contract worth $18.25 million with free agent catcher Yasmani Grandal, a deal that fills one of the more notable holes on the Milwaukee roster.
Grandal received a one-year qualifying offer from the Los Angeles Dodgers worth $17.9 million, but instead took slightly more money to play with the defending National League Central champions.
Grandal Topped List of Free-Agent Catchers
Grandal was widely seen as the best catcher on the market this offseason, and attracted attention from numerous teams. According to an ESPN report, the New York Mets were willing to offer Grandal more than $50 million over four years before they ultimately signed Wilson Ramos instead.
The 30-year-old Grandal has built a reputation as one of the best defensive catches in baseball, while also putting up above-average offensive numbers on a consistent basis. In seven years with the San Diego Padres and the Dodgers, he has hit .240 and has put up solid power numbers, hitting at least 22 home runs in each of the past three seasons.
Some of Grandal’s value comes from subtle benefits that have only become quantifiable in the age of analytics. He is known as one of the best pitch framers in baseball, getting more strikes for his pitchers than almost anyone else in the game. According to Statcorner, Grandal has been among the top four in pitch framing during each of the past four seasons.
That doesn’t mean his game doesn’t have some holes. He has at times shown a propensity for allowing too many passed balls, a problem that saw the Dodgers bench him during the playoffs. His bat also failed him during the postseason, as he hit just .138 in the playoffs with one home run and one RBI.
Free Agent Market Moving Slowly for Second Straight Year
Still, Grandal is undoubtedly one of the more valuable catchers in the league. That made it surprising to some that he was only able to secure a one-year contract, especially since his age shouldn’t become a major factor for at least a few more years.
But the signing does continue a trend that has been seen throughout MLB over the past two years, in which front offices have been hesitant to give long, high-value contracts to veteran players. Many top players have signed single-year contracts this offseason, and there are still a large number of prominent free agents who are holding out as long as possible in the hopes of drawing better offers from teams.
That includes a couple of the biggest names to hit the market in years: Manny Machado and Bryce Harper. According to Sports Illustrated’s Ben Reiter, 25 of the top 50 free agents on the market were unsigned as of early January, though Grandal was among that number.
As for the Brewers, the move could legitimately make the franchise believe they are the favorites in the NL Central, even if oddsmakers aren’t quite sold on that just yet. Milwaukee has done more to improve their roster than the Chicago Cubs or other rivals in the division – though the fact that many big names are still unsigned and that the Cubs may be pursuing some of those players means there’s still a chance that the balance swings back to Chicago before Opening Day.
For the meantime, bookmakers see the two teams as being fairly evenly matched. The Cubs are a 12/1 pick to win the World Series in 2019 according to William Hill, while the Brewers are listed at 14/1.