The Washington Nationals have a definite need for a catcher as things currently stand. If they choose to fill it via trade, Yasmani Grandal is worth a look.
The Washington Nationals were one of the most complete teams in the league in 2017, but they had one major hole: catcher. Matt Wieters and Jose Lobaton combined to form one of the weakest catching tandems in the league, which proved to be detrimental in the end.
Perhaps it is fitting that the two catchers committed the most costly errors in the Nats’ final postseason game of 2017. Wieters had arguably the worst game of his career, struggling mightily both at the plate and behind it. Lobaton also had an inexcusable mistake, getting picked off of first base in the eighth inning.
Now, Lobaton is a free agent so the Nats have an open roster spot for a catcher. It is unlikely that Lobaton will be back and Wieters does not deserve to be the primary catcher after his disastrous 2017 season, so the Nats will be shopping for a catcher.
If they elect to fill their need via trade, Yasmani Grandal is an intriguing candidate. Grandal, a 29-year-old catcher, has been somewhat phased out in Los Angeles in favor of the younger Austin Barnes.
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With the emergence of Barnes, Grandal’s playing time has been diminished and he is now expendable. The Dodgers may look to trade him this off-season, and the Nats should take a good look at him.
Grandal may not be an elite catcher, but he is a lot better than what the Nats currently have. In 129 games throughout 2017, he owned a slash line of .247/.308/.459 to go with 22 homers. His power and decent batting average would fit nicely towards the bottom of the Nats’ lineup.
In addition to being a solid hitter, Grandal is a terrific defensive catcher. According to Baseball Prospectus, his framing skills saved 17.6 runs in 2017, which ranked fourth in the majors. His FRAA (Fielding Runs Above Average) was 19.3, which also ranked fourth among catchers and is considered excellent.
If the Nats acquire Grandal, he and Wieters could complement each other well as platoon partners. Both Grandal and Wieters are switch hitters, but Grandal is better against right-handed pitchers and Wieters is better against left-handed pitchers. Because of this, Grandal could start against righties and Wieters could start against lefties.
Both Grandal and Wieters have also suffered from fatigue in the past. Grandal’s worst two months throughout his career are August and September, which points to fatigue being an issue. He has also struggled in the postseason, so he may be wearing down at the end of seasons.
Grandal consistently ranks near the top of the games played leaderboard among catchers, so it is certainly plausible that he struggles due to fatigue.
Wieters also struggles with fatigue. He got off to a great start with the Nats in 2017, but declined sharply throughout the season, bottoming out at the end of the season.
Considering that both Grandal and Wieters struggle with fatigue, a platoon could prove to be beneficial for both of them. A platoon would mean less playing time, which could lead to improved performance.
There are not any star catchers in this year’s free agent class, so if the Nats want to acquire a starting catcher, their best option may be to turn to a trade. If they do, Yasmani Grandal is certainly worth a look.