With 20-plus homers in each of the past three seasons, a lifetime 13.1 percent walk rate and well-regarded defensive tools behind the plate, Yasmani Grandal enters free agency as one of the most valuable backstops in baseball.
Below, you will find a list of the latest news and rumors surrounding the catcher.
Brewers reportedly have one-year deal with Grandal
Jan. 9: The Brewers and free-agent catcher Yasmani Grandal have agreed to a one-year, $18.25 million deal, a source told MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi. The agreement is pending a physical, and the club has not confirmed. MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal was first to report the deal, and Yahoo Sports' Tim Brown was first to report the salary figure.
Grandal, 30, had been considered one of the best catchers on the free-agent market following three seasons with the Padres and the last four with the Dodgers. From 2016-18, he posted a 113 OPS+ for Los Angeles, with 22 or more homers in each of those years. Defensively, he is considered a solid backstop, though he had struggles behind the plate during the last postseason. He reportedly declined a four-year, $60 million offer from the Mets earlier this offseason, and declined the Dodgers' one-year, $17.9 million qualifying offer to become a free agent.
The Brewers fell a game shy of the World Series last year, losing to Grandal's former club, the Dodgers. Over the past two offseasons, Milwaukee has added a pair of star outfielders in reigning National League Most Valuable Player Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain, and now reportedly has upgraded at the catcher position. The latest move will cost the organization Draft pick compensation, as Grandal rejected a qualifying offer from Los Angeles.
An area of need for the Brewers that remains is the starting rotation, which performed solidly in helping Milwaukee nearly capture the NL pennant, but remains without a proven ace at the top. Another is second base, a position for which the free-agent market is loaded with candidates, most of whom have yet to find a landing spot. More >
Is another team out on Grandal?
Jan. 6: Yasmani Grandal is "staying patient, believing a catcher with his skills and performance will draw requisite interest," as ESPN's Jeff Passan wrote recently. But clubs keep addressing their backstop needs, and Grandal remains unsigned. What if the offer the 30-year-old is seeking doesn't materialize?
Among the many teams to bring in a catcher of late, the Indians are the most recent, having acquired Kevin Plawecki from the Mets on Sunday. In addition, the Angels signed Jonathan Lucroy, and the Mets inked Wilson Ramos after reported talks with Grandal on a possible four-year, $60 million offer didn't work out. Put simply, there just aren't that many catcher-needy teams left to drive up the bidding for the All-Star, especially for a long-term contract.
"The Dodgers, the Rockies, the Astros ... and the Phillies ... there are not a lot of [empty] chairs," MLB Network analyst and former general manager Dan O'Dowd pointed out on MLB Now in a discussion about where Grandal could wind up. "I think he's going to get his money, but I'm just not sure about the length of the deal."
As a result, MLB.com's Mark Feinsand speculates that Grandal could wind up having to accept a one-year deal to return to the Dodgers before testing the market again next offseason. He won't be eligible to receive another qualifying offer at that point, which means teams won't need to forfeit a Draft pick to sign him, something that might be hindering his market this year.
Part of the reason the Dodgers would only be interested in Grandal -- the top free-agent catcher by a wide margin -- for one season? The club has a pair of high-end prospects at the position in Keibert Ruiz and Will Smith. Those two are Nos. 3 and 8 among all catcher prospects, according to MLB Pipeline.
"[The Dodgers] are not going to want to commit multiple years," O'Dowd said. "Colorado, I don't think has the bandwith to create a multi-year deal ... The Angels were a perfect fit, but they went Lucroy's direction."
Oh, and not to mention: Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto remains a highy sought-after trade candidate who could get in the way of Grandal and any suitors, too.
Grandal 'staying patient' in crowded market
Jan. 2: A lot of catchers have been in motion this offseason, but Grandal, at the top of his free-agent class, isn't one of them. Still, he's "staying patient, believing a catcher with his skills and performance will draw requisite interest," as ESPN's Jeff Passan writes on Wednesday.
Passan notes the various factors that have contributed to Grandal remaining unsigned into January: an "oversaturated" catching market with a "surfeit of inventory," the Draft pick compensation tied to him as a result of him declining the Dodgers' qualifying offer and his postseason struggles in 2018.
One executive even told Passan that he's wondering if Grandal might "become this year's version of Mike Moustakas." Moustakas declined the Royals' $17.4 million qualifying offer last offseason to become a free agent, but when he remained unsigned into March he ended up taking a one-year deal for just $5.5 million to return to Kansas City.
However, Grandal's case is not exactly comparable to Moustakas' -- Grandal's rare two-way ability at a premium position should make him a lot more valuable than Moustakas, one of many left-handed corner-infield power bats. And sources told Passan that while something similar happening to Grandal isn't "out of the question," it "remains unlikely."
Two teams that could pursue Grandal, according to Passan, are the Indians and A's. The Indians could use a replacement for Yan Gomes after trading him to the Nationals at the end of November, and the A's top option at catcher is currently Josh Phegley.
Entering New Year, Grandal ranks third among top available FAs remaining
Jan. 1: For a position that has seen offensive decline across the board, Yasmani Grandal has a lot to offer. In fact, among all catchers entering 2019, only J.T. Realmuto and Buster Posey are projected to have a better upcoming season -- at least according to Steamer projections from FanGraphs.
Grandal is projected to be worth 3.5 Wins Above Replacement, per Steamer, which would be tied with Gary Sánchez for third-most among backstops. In fact, that value is also the third-highest among remaining free agents available, behind only Manny Machado (5.2 fWAR) and Bryce Harper (4.9), who have been widely acknowledged as the top two available free agents all offseason, as MLB.com's Matt Kelly outlined in a recent article. Grandal last year was worth a career-high 3.6 fWAR.
Steamer also projects Grandal will slash .237/.343/.444 with 22 homers and 68 RBIs. Those figures are nearly identical to what he posted in a strong 2018.
Even through Grandal's market took a hit after the Nationals signed Kurt Suzuki, the Mets signed Wilson Ramos and the Angels signed Jonathan Lucroy, Grandal was, and remains, the market's top available catcher. Now the question that lingers is: will Grandal be able to secure a deal north of the four-year, $60 million offer that he supposedly rejected from the Mets earlier this offseason?
Did Grandal misread the market by rejecting four-year, $60 million offer?
Dec. 29: Despite the long list of teams that needed a catcher at the beginning of the offseason, Yasmani Grandal remains a free agent, and the 30-year-old's contract demands may be the reason why he's still available.
A person with knowledge of the situation told Jorge Castillo of the Los Angeles Times that Grandal rejected a four-year, $60 million offer from the Mets, who subsequently signed Wilson Ramos to a two-year, $19 million deal. Grandal's market took another hit Friday, as the Angels reportedly agreed to a one-year deal with Jonathan Lucroy.
Grandal is one of the most productive backstops in baseball, but there might not be many teams that are willing to give him more than the Mets were offering, especially considering his new team will need to forfeit one or more Draft picks to sign him after he rejected a one-year, $17.9 million qualifying offer from the Dodgers.
MLB Network Radio's Jeff Joyce wonders whether Grandal and the Marlins, who are shopping backstop J.T. Realmuto, have misread the market.
"I really wonder, with the Mets, the Nats, the Astros, the Braves, the Angels all filling catcher this offseason, has Grandal and have the Marlins overplayed their hand, their asking prices?" Joyce said.
"There was a report that [Grandal] was asking for [five years and $70 million], I can't imagine anyone's going to give that to him right now."
Why Dodgers are unlikely to bring back Grandal
Dec. 26: On one hand, the Dodgers are seeking a catcher to team with Austin Barnes and have been linked to Marlins star J.T. Realmuto in trade rumors. That's why L.A. still could find a way to bring back Yasmani Grandal, even though he declined the qualifying offer at the outset of the offseason.
On the other hand, however, the club doesn't seem interested in locking up the position for the long term, because youngsters Keibert Ruiz and Will Smith -- two of the top catcher prospects, according to MLB Pipeline -- could find their way to Los Angeles by 2020. That may be one of two key reasons why Grandal is unlikely to return, as MLB.com's Ken Gurnick explains.
Grandal "already turned down a one-year, $17.9 million qualifying offer from the Dodgers because he seeks a multiyear payday, reportedly somewhere around five years and $75 million," Gurnick writes. "He's not getting that from the Dodgers, who have four quality catching prospects in the system, led by Will Smith and Keibert Ruiz, and only need a short-term bridge. Grandal's postseason defensive meltdown aside, he's the most attractive free agent at his position this offseason. The Dodgers also are in line to pick up a compensatory Draft pick if he signs with another club, added incentive for the Dodgers not to re-sign him unless his market tanks and he becomes a bargain."
In addition to having Ruiz and Smith in the wings, that last point also is worth remembering. As a team that has had a strong farm system for a number of years now, the Dodgers clearly value the chance to recoup a Draft pick if Grandal signs elsewhere. (This is part of the reason why the club also was willing to extend the qualifying offer to effective but injury-prone lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu, who accepted.)
Although the market for Grandal has been somewhat slow to develop while Realmuto rumors have been the hot topic at this position so far, it's unlikely Grandal ultimately would wind up seeing his free agency fall apart to the point where he circles back to the Dodgers on a short-term deal for one or two years.
Should more teams be in on Grandal?
Dec. 22: The catchers' market has been dominated by chatter surrounding a potential J.T. Realmuto trade, but a deal doesn't really appear to be any closer than at the start of the offseason thanks to the Marlins' sky-high asking price. Meanwhile, Grandal was just as good as Realmuto in 2018, says MLB.com's Mike Petriello, who argues that Grandal should be generating more interest as a premier catcher who would only cost a team money and a compensatory Draft pick as opposed to the elite prospects needed to pull off a Realmuto trade.
Grandal posted nearly the exact same batting line as Realmuto in 2018 in terms of wRC+, Petriello notes, while also representing the best pitch-framer in MLB -- a skill more valuable than Realmuto's ability to throw out baserunners because teams are attempting to steal less and less in the modern game. Grandal's pitch-framing ability made him more valuable than Realmuto in some versions of wins above replacement (WAR) last season.
So, who could use a backstop of Grandal's caliber? Petriello believes the Angels, Rockies and Red Sox are in most desperate need of a catcher upgrade. Los Angeles' starting catchers at this moment are the unproven Jose Briceno and Kevan Smith, while the Rockies' trio of Chris Iannetta/Tom Murphy/Tony Wolters and the Red Sox's platoon of Sandy Leon and Christian Vázquez were each highly ineffective at the plate in 2018.
Is Grandal a fit for Cubs?
Dec. 18: The Cubs are working toward a two-year, $5 million agreement with infielder Daniel Descalso. Does that team-friendly deal give them room to pull in a bigger free agent behind the plate? Granted, the club already has Willson Contreras at catcher, but could Yasmani Grandal be a possibility?
In a word: Unlikely.
"The only way I'd envision the Cubs getting into the free-agent bidding for Grandal is if they moved Contreras in a trade, and that's not something I'd expect Chicago to do," MLB.com's Jordan Bastian writes in addressing Grandal. "Now, the front office has said they'd need to get "creative" to add a contract of any significance this offseason. Trading Contreras would definitely fit that description, especially if the Cubs could package him with a larger contract to free up payroll."
Contreras did take a step back last year in just about every facet after a breakout 2017, but he's still only 26 years old and remains under club control through the '22 season. The Cubs would have to be overwhelmed to unload him, especially considering they would be selling somewhat low. As Bastian breaks down the backstop's defensive performance, Contreras clearly has room for improvement.
"Last season, Contreras had a minus-17.8 Framing Runs (MLB low) per Baseball Prospectus, while Grandal ranked first at 15.7," Bastian points out. "Overall, Contreras was deemed to be minus-15.4 in Fielding Runs, while Grandal ranked second at 17.7. Contreras did rate well in Blocking Runs (fifth at 1.9) and Throwing Runs (eighth at 0.4), so it was really the representation side of things that cost him and the Cubs."
In short, it doesn't seem likely the Cubs would be a fit for Grandal, but Chicago would benefit from his defensive skill set, particularly his elite pitch representation (or framing) -- something the club no doubt will want Contreras to focus on heading into '19.
Now that the Mets have found their catcher, how does that affect the market for Grandal?
Dec. 16: The Mets were rumored to be a serious suitor for free-agent catcher Yasmani Grandal, but New York struck a two-year deal with Wilson Ramos on Sunday. What does that mean for Grandal?
The two premier catchers remaining on the market this offseason are Grandal and Marlins All-Star backstop J.T. Realmuto, who is on the trade block. The clubs that are still reportedly looking for an upgrade behind the plate include the Reds, Rays, Brewers, Dodgers, Padres, Angels, Astros and White Sox.
According to MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi, Los Angeles is open to the idea of bringing Grandal back on a one-year deal, though it may not be for as much as the $17.9 million qualifying offer the Dodgers extended him following the end of the World Series.
But the Dodgers are also reportedly serious players for Realmuto, as are several of the teams noted above. That may mean that until Realmuto is moved, Grandal may be in a holding pattern.
Grandal, who turned 30 last month, had his best offensive season in 2018, slashing .241/.349/.466 with 24 home runs in 140 games. Though he struggled defensively during the postseason, he is known as a very good defensive catcher.
Realmuto's trade market is impacting Grandal
Dec. 12: In case you haven't been paying attention, J.T. Realmuto arguably has been the most headline-making name at the Winter Meetings this week. (If you want the latest on the Marlins' catcher, who could be traded any day now, you can find it here.) Just as important, though, is the impact all of the Realmuto rumors are having on the rest of the backstop market, especially for free agents like Yasmani Grandal, who is at or near the top of those available.
While everyone waits to see what will happen with Realmuto, MLB.com's Anthony DiComo speculates that once that long-awaited saga is decided, the big free agent catchers -- including Grandal and Wilson Ramos, among others -- could start falling into place.
For instance: It's been widely reported the Mets are after Realmuto and may, in fact, be the front-runners to make a swap for him. But if that doesn't happen, they could pivot quickly and target Grandal. "We know how much [Mets GM] Brodie [Van Wagenen] likes Realmuto, but we're starting to hear that he likes Grandal quite a bit as well," as SNY's Andy Martino said.
Stay tuned here, because once we get some resolution with Realmuto, the backstop dominoes could start to fall -- fast.
White Sox considering Grandal
Dec. 11: While the race for Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto has taken center stage at the Winter Meetings, the market for Yasmani Grandal has yet to develop. Some teams, such as the Mets, are seemingly viewing Grandal as more of a fallback option rather than a top target.
However, ESPN's Buster Olney reports that the White Sox, who aren't believed to be in the running for Realmuto, are considering Grandal.
The White Sox traded Omar Narváez to the Mariners earlier this offseason for reliever Alex Colomé, leaving Welington Castillo and Seby Zavala as the only catchers on the 40-man roster. Castillo has his share of value, but his lifetime .708 OPS vs. righties (.846 OPS vs. LHP) suggests he's better suited for a part-time role. The 30-year-old Grandal is a switch-hitter who does his best work against righties, so the two could fit well together.
Chicago is reportedly looking to expedite its rebuilding process with a big-name free agent or two and could be in on Bryce Harper and Manny Machado in addition to Grandal.