Washington Nationals: Replacing the replacement-level catchers

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WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 02: Matt Wieters #32 of the Washington Nationals celebrates with teammates after the game against the Cincinnati Reds at Nationals Park on August 02, 2018 in Washington, DC. Nationals won 10-4. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 02: Matt Wieters #32 of the Washington Nationals celebrates with teammates after the game against the Cincinnati Reds at Nationals Park on August 02, 2018 in Washington, DC. Nationals won 10-4. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images) /
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Washington Nationals Yasmani Grandal
(Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images) /

Yasmani Grandal – Los Angeles Dodgers

Yasmani Grandal may well receive a qualifying offer from Los Angeles this off-season. The Dodgers certainly have the financial resources to bring him back, but they also have multiple catching prospects that are near major-league ready in Keibert Ruiz and Will Smith.

Having benched Grandal in favor of veteran AJ Ellis during their 2017 World Series run, it wouldn’t be shocking to see LA take a similar approach in 2019.

If not the Dodgers, someone will pay the soon-to-be 30-year-old backstop this winter. He finished outside Buster Olney’s mini-list of competent catchers, tied with Willson Contreras with 2.8 WAR this season, which good for third overall league-wide. He’s a legitimate first-division catcher.

An All-Star in ‘15, Grandal has been a remarkably consistent offensive force for five seasons, averaging 124 games, 390 ABs, .234/.333/.775, with 21 HRs and a 111 park-adjusted OPS.

He strikes out too much with a 24.1% strikeout percentage in 2018, and 23.9% in his career. He walks the right amount with a 13.6% walk percentage in 2018, and 13% for his career. He also hits for power with an excellent .212 ISO in ‘18, .202 ISO for his career. In other words, he’s a perfectly modern player.

Wherever he signs, Grandal should set the market for free-agent catchers. The Yankees gave Brian McCann $17 million per year on average in 2013, which remains the most-ever given to a free agent catcher. Buster Posey’s $22 million, Yadier Molina’s $20 million, and Russell Martin’s $20 million all top the AAV for catchers. Joe Mauer plays first base now, but he still hits like a catcher, and his $24 million marks the high-water mark for the position.

If the Washington Nationals are willing to pay the premium to get him, Grandal would provide a significant boost in production. He’ll surely command well over $100 million across 5 years, but if there’s a position to overpay for, catcher is it, and he’s the guy.

Despite Olney’s fear-mongering, he’s not the only guy.

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