The Dodgers do not currently have a starting catcher. Austin Barnes and Kyle Farmer are on the roster, sure, but the team needs a backstop of a higher caliber than two guys who are yet to prove themselves both behind the plate and in the batter’s box. The solution to this issue, however, may not be as clear-cut as you think.
This problem, staring the Dodgers in the face is one with two solutions. On one hand, the Dodgers could attempt to make a trade with the Miami Marlins for a 27-year old superstar in JT Realmuto. Realmuto has long been the hopes and dreams of Dodger fans and with nobody currently slotted into the starting role in LA, his name can be found atop almost everyone’s wish list. But, resting quietly, on the other hand, is the second solution. The solution that is overwhelmingly detested by fans yet it makes so much sense: resign Yasmani Grandal.
The decision between the two seems obvious and easy- trade for the guy who is younger, believed to be far better than Grandal both offensively and defensively and has the potential to be a solid batter int he playoffs, something Yasmani Grandal is far, far, from doing. But, the reality is not that simple. Similarities between the two backstops are plentiful, they just need to be pointed out. The decision to make a trade for JT Realmuto could wind up leaving fans just as disappointed as they think they would be with a new contract for Grandal. Let’s figure out why.
To the naked eye and the open ear, listening to the word of mouth, JT Realmuto is the most dominant catcher in baseball with a bat. Many believe he is the second coming of Dodger rival, Buster Posey and when asked about who they would prefer, Grandal or Realmuto, the answer is almost always Realmuto.
But, throw their numbers side by side, take the names off of who the numbers belong to and the lines are blurred. I tried that on Twitter. In my undercover case study, I compiled four statistics, two defensive and four offensive: passed balls, DRS, OPS, OPS+, home runs and OBP. Next, I pulled the numbers for both Grandal and Realmuto, put them in a Tweet and removed the names from both numbers. Here is how you voted:
Between the two polls I posted, 154 people voted. 59.7% of you, or 92 people, said they would prefer Catcher 2, Yasmani Grandal. That number left just 40.3% of the voters picking the player they have yearned so much for, JT Realmuto. The statistics between the two explain why.
For this study, I isolated each player’s numbers to their 2018 performances. The first stat on the list was passed balls, the issue at the root of many people’s distaste for Grandal. His number was high, too high actually, at nine passed balls this past season. But, Realmuto, the cure to the Dodgers catching woes, let eight balls get past him. The defensive issues do not stop there for the 27-year old Marlin.
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In 2018, Yasmani Grandal was actually fairly effective behind the plate. Use whatever defensive metric you like but in defensive runs saved, the number widely used to judge a player’s defense, Grandal was superior with a DRS of 9 whereas Realmuto’s was -7.
So, the defense cannot be the reason people want Realmuto over Grandal, it has to be the offense. Right? Not so fast. Last season, Realmuto had an OPS of .825 and an OPS+ of 131 but Grandal was not far behind with an .815 OPS and a 121 OPS+. Looking for light-tower power and again, Grandal is your answer, he hit 24 homers in 2018 and Realmuto hit 21. Finally, an issue people believe yet there is no truth to it- Realmuto gets on base more than Grandal. In 2018, Grandal owned a .349 on-base percentage. Realmuto’s was .340.
But in the polls I sent out on Twitter, the overwhelming result that saw Grandal picked as the favorite was not enough for some people. They said they would take Realmuto every time because Grandal cannot hit in the postseason. Is there really a postseason advantage if the Dodgers had Realmuto over Grandal? The real answer is we don’t know. Grandal is a terrible postseason batter. With just 8 hits in 75 career playoff at-bats, there is actually no denying his flaw. But, there is also no statistical way to say Realmuto would be better in the postseason, he has never been there.
And sure, we can speculate and say Realmuto would have more success come October but an assumption is not ground for argument.
We can go on and on comparing numbers that makes the two players more and more simple but it still does not answer the question of what the right choice is for next season. It will ultimately come down to cost.
Yasmani Grandal is considered a top ten free agent. The MLB is in an era where strong offensive catchers are few and far between yet Grandal is a great offensive catcher. His price tag will be high this offseason more than likely demanding somewhere in the $10 million a year range.
But, Realmuto is of the same caliber offensively. He is widely regarded as the most dominant young catcher in baseball and that will come at a different cost: prospects.
At the end of the day, the choice should come down to the cost not who is superior. The offensive differences between the two are minuscule and Realmuto has all the defensive issues people bag on Grandal for. This is not a clear-cut move. One will hit the wallet, the other will hit the farm and the Dodgers are left standing in the middle of the two, with a very tough decision to make.