UPDATE (12:00 p.m. ET)
Fun thought exercise while it lasted! A few hours after publication, Grandal finalized a four-year, $73 million contract with the White Sox.
Time to spend Bruce Sherman’s and Derek Jeter’s money! Entering the third year under new Marlins ownership, fans expect to see significant improvement at the major league level. Some of that improvement will surely come from within, but prospects—as they say—will break your heart. Successful MLB rebuilds make sure to surround their young cores with veterans who can bring credibility and reliable production. Free agent additions figure to be critically important to keeping the Fish on track.
To date, the largest investment that the Sherman/Jeter Marlins have made in any free agent was $5.25 million for Cuban outfielder Víctor Víctor Mesa. “Deep Sea Fishing” is a series of profiles on established, available players—all of them projected to cost more than Víctor Víctor—who should be seriously considered by the front office.
2019 team(s): Brewers
2019 salary: $16 million
2020 season age: 31
Marlins connection? Yasmani Grandal went to Miami Springs High School, played college baseball for the Miami Hurricanes, and played one year for manager Don Mattingly with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2015.
Why the Marlins should want him
Coming off a season in which he made his second All-Star team and hit a career high 28 home runs, Grandal will be one of the bigger names on the free agent wire this offseason. The catcher was a workhorse for the Milwaukee Brewers during their 2019 playoff run, leading all backstops in games played with 153. Last week, the native of Havana, Cuba declined a $16 million mutual option to seek a longer commitment on the open market.
Since coming onto the scene with the San Diego Padres in 2012, Grandal has earned a reputation for being one of the best defensive catchers in the game. Specifically, Grandal has received praise for his framing. According to FanGraphs, Grandal is the second-best defensive catcher in Major League Baseball, behind former Marlin J.T. Realmuto. He has a .994 fielding percentage through the first eight seasons of his career, which is higher than both Gary Carter and Yogi Berra. While he won’t be putting together his Hall of Fame speech anytime soon, Grandal’s achievements have not gone unnoticed, as he finished 15th in NL MVP voting in 2019.
He is a well-rounded player and has been for quite a while now. Dating back to 2016, Grandal’s 19.7 fWAR leads all MLB catchers (Realmuto is second at 17.1 fWAR).
Most Valuable MLB Catchers, 2016-2019
Michael Hill’s stance has been that draft-pick compensation would not prevent the Miami Marlins from going after a desired free agent. That won’t come into play with Grandal, anyway—he refused a qualifying offer extended to him by the Los Angeles Dodgers last offseason, making him ineligible to receive one this time around. This is a big selling point for the backstop who slashed .246/.380/.468 last year, and will lead to a higher willingness for teams to sign the two-time All Star than what we saw last offseason.
The most important factor to consider is where the 31-year-old fits with this team. In 2019, Jorge Alfaro caught 118 games for the Marlins. Alfaro, still only 26, is certainly on the path to having a future behind the plate in Miami. The Marlins, for the most part, saw Garrett Cooper, Martin Prado, and Neil Walker at first base in 2019. The latter two will not be returning this upcoming season, and Cooper is someone who can also play right field. An addition of Grandal would likely mean a more even split between catcher and first, much like his 2014 season, where he played 76 games at catcher and 37 at first in an injury-shortened season.
MLB Network’s Jon Heyman tweeted earlier this offseason that Grandal is expected to get a huge deal, so the likelihood of a long-term contract is no secret throughout Major League Baseball. Investing in such a player would be a wise move, because it gives the Marlins a veteran leader that they’re lacking with the departure of Prado. If the future of the catcher position in Miami lies with Alfaro and prospects such as Will Banfield and Dustin Skelton, who better to mentor them than someone with the résumé of Grandal?
Why the Marlins might not get him
There are teams in Major League Baseball who need a catcher far more than the Marlins, so don’t be surprised if a bidding war ensues and someone ends up overpaying for the two-time All-Star. His representatives have already begun taking meetings with front office officials, including those from the Toronto Blue Jays.
It seems likely that the type of deal Grandal gets will be one that is more suited for a team in “win-now” mode rather than in the middle of a rebuild. If the Marlins ultimately do lock up a free agent to a long-term deal, their targets figure to be players significantly younger than 31 years old.
Much like other players noted in our Deep Sea Fishing Series, Yasmani Grandal would create some buzz among casual fans in South Florida. The Miami Springs High School and University of Miami alum would have no trouble getting Marlins fans behind him, and would fill a leadership role to a young but promising team.
Be sure to bookmark FishStripes.com and check in frequently as the Deep Sea Fishing series continues...