Dodgers: The Dodgers Have a Catching Dilemma for Next Season

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 31: Austin Barnes
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 31: Austin Barnes /
LOS ANGELES, CA – OCTOBER 31: Austin Barnes /

The Dodgers have two starting quality catchers on the roster in Yasmani Grandal and Austin Barnes, but only one of them can be the main guy next season.

It’s a good problem to have if you’re the Dodgers. It gives the team multiple options for next season as both players are productive hitters and defenders behind the plate. However, a platoon role is probably not an option that will satisfy each player next year. Grandal has been a starter for the last four years now and won’t be happy with a backup role seeing as he is just entering the prime years of his career. Barnes would probably be more accepting of a backup role to start the season next year than Grandal, but I’m sure he still wouldn’t be too happy about it. He took over Grandal’s starting spot in the postseason and doesn’t want to go back the bench now.

It could lead to a distraction come spring training and one of them could ask for a trade if they know their playing time is going to diminish. Both players are still young, Grandal just turned 29 while Barnes turns 28 in December. Grandal looked poised to be the Dodgers starting catcher for years to come until Barnes came out of nowhere and played his way into the starting lineup. Grandal didn’t necessarily lose his starting job late in the season due to poor play, Barnes was just so good he forced Dave Roberts to have to play him.

Grandal had a pretty good overall year. In 129 games he hit .247 with a .308 OBP and led all NL catchers in home runs with 22. He is also widely recognized as one of the better pitch framers in the game and threw out 32% of would-be base stealers. Most teams would be fairly satisfied with production like that from their starting catcher. It does, however, seem that the Dodgers are somewhat frustrated with his lack of progression as a hitter. Grandal seems to have the same hitting approach no matter what the situation is. He is a dead pull hitter with great power but doesn’t do enough of other things to help out the team as much as he should. Barnes, on the other hand, played great all year as not only the backup catcher but also a utility 2B.

More from LA Dodgers News

Barnes by far had the most playing time in his career this year as he was finally able to earn a spot on the 25 man roster going into the season as the primary backup catcher. He was so good early on that Roberts had to find more ways to get him on the field and had him make starts at 2B this year. He doesn’t have the same power as Grandal but does have some good pop and was better than Grandal in every important hitting category this season. He played 52 games at catcher and 16 games at 2B. He was always known as an offensive player throughout the minors but showed he could be a solid defensive player behind the plate as well.

Altogether in 102 games, Barnes slash was 289 AVG/8 HR/38 RBI. He also had a great 406 OBP and 895 OPS. Barnes didn’t take over the starting spot until game two of the NLDS against the Diamondbacks. In 220 fewer plate appearances, Barnes had a higher WAR of 2.3 this year than Grandal whose WAR was 2.1. This shows that Barnes might have been the better player all season long and the Dodgers should’ve made him the starter much earlier.

However, making Barnes the full-time starter next year also runs the risk of him not being able to repeat his production. Barnes came out of nowhere this season and surprised everybody. The league now has some good amount of film on him which could lead to him having a sophomore slump. Despite his flaws, you know what you’re are going to get out of Grandal. You won’t get a high batting average, but you’re going to get good power for a catcher, a patient hitter that draws walks which will lead to a decent OBP, and solid defense behind the plate.

It might not be a risk the Dodgers are willing to take knowing the consistent production Grandal provides. Each player will provide a good potential trade piece, and the Dodgers do need another starting pitcher. Grandal made $5.5 million this year and is entering the final year of arbitration. He will be an unrestricted FA after the 2018 season. Since this is Barnes first full season in the majors, they won’t have to worry about his contract for a long time.

It’s a tough decision, but I believe the Dodgers have a lot of faith in Barnes going forward. I don’t believe his season was a fluke. The team trusted him in their most important games this season by starting him in the playoffs. This shows how much belief they had in him. He was a good hitter in the minors and just needed the playing time to prove he can do it in the majors.

Next: Three underrated Dodgers returning from injuries in 2018

Barnes is cheaper and is now better than Grandal. The best option might be to trade Grandal in the off-season before he becomes a free agent for pitching a sign a backup catcher for Barnes. These are just my thoughts on the situation but we will see what the Dodgers do going forward.