In a bit of shocking news, the Milwaukee Brewers signed catcher Yasmani Grandal last night to a one year, $18.25 million deal. This comes out of nowhere as the Brewers weren’t really linked to the former Dodger’s backstop. But, Stearns strikes again, a master at laying low and staying patient, waiting for the apt time to swoop in for an Executive of the Year-type deal.
Milwaukee Brewers GM David Stearns owns January. He has set up a cul-de-sac in the month of January and isn’t leaving anytime soon. Stearns is to January what Joel Embiid is to the opposing center’s mind. And now, I can only imagine January Stearns is comparable to Russell Crowe’s character in Gladiator, asking the rhetorical question “Are you not entertained?” of Milwaukee fans. Quite obviously, that’s a yes. And quite obviously, we are begging for more.
What happened last year in January?
Last year in the month of January alone he acquired the two most productive players for the Milwaukee organization, one of them being the Most Valuable Player for the National League. There is no entity more trusted than Stearns in the first month of the year and it’s not even close. He’s Thomas Shelby, staring the barrel of a gun and not flinching. Milwaukee Brewers fans are accustomed to him coming out alive on the other end at the expense of the guy behind the trigger.
As you can tell, I’m high on Yasmani Grandal to the Brewers and not short on excessively dramatic comparisons. Wait, wasn’t he the guy that got embarrassed in the NL Championship Series? Exactly! And that’s the exact reason I’m really high on this signing. Kind of…
What does Grandal bring to Milwaukee?
The Milwaukee Brewers obviously needed an upgrade at the catching position. There aren’t too many spots where teams can get away with having a below average player and be excused for it because they’re either a good defender or there isn’t enough talent at that position. Well, to be fair, catcher is one of those spots (shortstop being the other, but less so in the modern game). And Stearns could very well have stuck with Manny Pina, Erik Kratz, and the hope of Jacob Nottingham and avoided scrutiny. Instead, he made a move for a top catcher in the majors on a deal that makes sense.
Grandal finished last year in the top two in wins above replacement (WAR) for his position with 3.6. The best part of such a productive season is he did it from both sides.
Grandal finished the year with a slash line of .241/.349/.466 and 24 home runs. His weighted runs created plus (wRC+) was 125, tying him for third among catchers. He’s an offensive machine. Grandal ranks top five among most major offensive categories (minus the caveman statistic that is batting average) and has been one of the more consistent players at that position for the last few years.
How about Grandal’s defense?
Ignoring his offensive prowess, which is pretty difficult to do, Grandal is exceptional at the other end. He has elite pitch framing skills and is one of the best defensive backstops in the league. His defensive ratings, according to FanGraphs’ metrics, rate him higher than either Brewers’ incumbent for 2019. That’s crucial for what could be a young and inexperienced pitching staff looking to make leaps this upcoming season. Not only will he be better equipped to handle such a staff, but he will be a significant upgrade at the plate.
The former Dodgers catcher was arguably the best option on the free agent market going into the off season. His all around game makes him more valuable than any of the other choices. He’s a difference maker at the plate while having elite defense to make up for any small difference between him and an offensive-minded backstop such as Wilson Ramos. Additionally, Grandal is clearly a better catcher than either of the Milwaukee Brewers’ options going into the new year.
$18 million and change plus their third highest draft pick isn’t nothing for the Milwaukee Brewers to give up by signing Grandal. But, Grandal has produced as such every year since 2015. His dollar value according to WAR has been above $18 million the last four years and peaked at $28.7 million last year. $28.7 million last year and now he signed for just over $18 million! The Brewers could very well be getting a steal because he cost an extra draft pick and struggled on the big stage in a microscopic sample size.
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Signing a 30-year-old catcher to a one year deal is ideal. There aren’t too many catchers that produce consistently into their 30’s and the Milwaukee Brewers get to avoid that headache. Stearns once again makes magic in January and should be considered in the discussion of best general managers in baseball. His resume is certainly up there with the elite and this move will only improve it.