With their crushing defeat at the hands of the Washington Nationals in last night’s National League Wild Card game, the Milwaukee Brewers watched their 2019 season come to a close. With it likely comes the end of the current tenure with the Beers of one Yasmani Grandal, who is expected to opt-out of his side of a 2020 mutual option and again become a free agent this winter.
Grandal ended up in Milwaukee on what will effectively be a 1 year, $18 million deal after wading through a murky free agent market last winter, reportedly turning down multi-year deals with lower average annual values while feeling something of a duty to the catching community to continue to press their contract limits forward. This winter, that’s likely to be what he pursues once again, especially since this time around he won’t be tagged with draft pick compensation the way he was last winter, and he’ll do so fresh off a brilliant 2019 campaign.
Many, many teams are expected to pursue Grandal, obviously. One of those, though, is the Cincinnati Reds, as MLB Network’s Jon Heyman relayed just last night.
Yasmani Grandal, who put the Brewers up with a 2-run homer, will draw huge interest as a free agent this winter. The Reds, his original team, are expected to try again to bring him back.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) October 2, 2019
Grandal, who’ll turn 31 in November, was the Reds 1st round pick back in 2010, and is fresh off a season where he set career highs in almost every single statistical category, belting 28 homers and walking an impressive 109 times with his efforts. That paired with his longstanding reputation as one of the absolute best pitch framers in the game has his value at an all-time high, meaning there’s no doubt he’s set to sign a very, very lucrative contract.
As for the Reds, it was only last winter where we saw them very publicly chase a major catching upgrade, as they were repeatedly connected to All Star J.T. Realmuto in trade talks before the Miami Marlins ultimately chose to send him to Philadelphia instead. Considering that the cadre of Reds catchers has only combined to post 1.4 total fWAR since the start of the 2018 season - 22nd best among MLB teams - it’s clear that there is room to upgrade behind the plate, and given the odd mix of free agent position players available this winter, Grandal and catcher might be the most seamless fit.
The thing with Grandal, though, is that he does bring more to the table than just catching. Part of the reason he set career highs in both games played and plate appearances this season was because the Brewers found him playing time at 1B when not behind the plate, as he featured there in some 20 games. As I opined just a few weeks back, the growing rift in Joey Votto’s splits against LHP vs. against RHP means that the idea of sitting him from time to time against tough LHP might be a way to get the best out of him at age 36, and that jives tremendously well (on paper) with a guy like Grandal, a switch-hitter who pummels LHP.
What’s clear here is that the offense of the Cincinnati Reds in 2019 simply was not good enough, as they ranked in the bottom third of all MLB teams in most every telling category. Grandal, while likely set to command a contract that would break the Reds team record for free agent spending, would be a tremendous upgrade to that offense, as well as one who should continue to provide excellent defense and framing help for a burgeoning juggernaut of a pitching staff.
What’s also becoming increasingly clear is that the Reds do appear poised to be every bit as active this winter as they were with their flurry of moves a year ago, their hiring of pitching guru Kyle Boddy yesterday the latest example. A pursuit of Grandal would certainly fall in-line with that type of aggressiveness.