Catcher, a position that has been headed up by one of Yasmani Grandal or AJ Ellis for the last six seasons is now vacant. Austin Barnes is on the roster but the team does not regard him as an everyday starter. Will Smith and Keibert Ruiz, two of the Dodgers most prized prospects, are not expected to contribute very much if at all in 2019. Thus, the Dodgers need to find a starter and fill their catching hole.
The solution seems three-fold: they could trade for JT Realmuto, resign Yasmani Grandal or acquire a veteran either by trade or by free agency. But the decision is not that simple. The Dodgers are stuck in a spot where there really is only one correct choice and that may not be the one you are thinking of. Let’s dig a little deeper.
The Dodgers first question that needs to be answered is what is the priority? If defense is the most highly valued trait of the next starting backstop in Los Angeles, neither Yasmani Grandal nor JT Realmuto is the solution. Grandal stacks up well when it comes to DRS. In 2018, Grandal’s DRS was nine, significantly higher than most people would guess. Grandal’s kryptonite, however, is the battle between pitch framing and passed balls, a category he has led the Majors in for the last three seasons.
For Realmuto, the defensive problems start at DRS. Last year, the highly touted backstop worked his way to an abysmal DRS of -7 and a 0 DRS as a first baseman (78 innings at first). Now think about that, the two most high octane offensive catchers in the league have their own defensive issues. Both come at a steep cost, for Grandal it will be financially and for Realmuto in the form of prospects. The other issue with the two of them is time. Both catchers are not short-term solutions and with young catcher coming up in the farm system, the long-term Major League catcher makes little sense, it clogs a hole.
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Now, if offense is desired and defense is less important the options open up. But that should not be the deciding factor in this decision. It is that last factor I mentioned above, it’s time.
The Dodgers do not and should not need to fill the catching job for an extended period of time. The team has not one but two young catchers waiting in the wings and one of them, Will Smith, is already in Triple-A. They are the one-two punch the team is looking for behind the plate and Austin Barnes along with any long-term catcher just clogs that situation up. Thus, short-term is the way to go.
Whether that means trading for someone like Yan Gomes or signing someone like Martin Maldanado (who happens to be an unreal defender) the Dodgers should do it. This team may have reached a point where signing someone for anything but the years on their contract is foolish.
The Dodgers have the future of catching in the minor league system and blocking their path to the Major Leagues is a worse move than any possible trade you can think of. Longevity, or lack thereof, is paramount in this situation.
At the end of the day, the Dodgers are a team looking for a trophy. They need firepower in the bats and gold gloves in the field but at what cost. Paying exorbitant amounts of money or trading away prospects is not the answer as it hurts the team internally and prevents prospects from advancing. The solution to the catching problem is the shortest one possible: find a player for one or two seasons and invest in both Keibert Ruiz and Will Smith.