Could The Rays Acquire Yasmani Grandal?


Now that the Rays 2014 season is over, it’s time to start looking towards what the roster might look like in 2015. You can be sure that the Rays’ Front Office is already looking at players internally and externally who can help the team return to their usual winning ways in 2015. One area they will definitely look to improve is their offense, and someone that they should look at is Padres’ switch-hitting catcher Yasmani Grandal.

Grandal is coming off of his first full season in the big leagues and has several things going for him that would make him attractive to the Rays. His overall line of .225/.327/.392 in 2014 was decent for a catcher and he posted a wRC+ of 111, indicating he was an above-average hitter. That alone would be a major upgrade over Jose Molina’s pitiful wRC+ of 23, but it gets better. Grandal had an ISO of .175 in 2014 and has always had a career BB% of at least 13.1 % in his time in the majors. There’s also a good chance Grandal’s offensive numbers will increase if he does not play half his games at the pitcher-friendly PETCO Park.  He has the upside to be even better than he’s been so far, and that would make him a solid addition to the Rays’ lineup.

His defensive skill set is also intriguing. It’s no secret that the Rays value pitch-framing ability in their catchers, and Grandal excels in that area. According to Stat Corner, Grandal ranks as the 8th best pitch-framer in baseball, one spot behind Molina. Another positive for the Rays is that Grandal is under team control until 2018 and is not very expensive. He will play at the league minimum salary in 2015, and he is not arbitration eligible until 2016. So why might the Padres be willing the deal a young catcher with this kind of upside? Well there are a few reasons.

The Padres currently have arguably the best catching prospect in baseball in Austin Hedges who reached Double-A last season and should be ready for the big leagues fairly soon. Grandal has apparently sensed that he may not be the catcher of the future and reportedly asked the Padres for a trade. Grandal also served a 50-game suspension at the end of the 2013 season due to being involved in the biogenesis scandal for possible PED use. This could cause some concern, but after putting up a pretty solid 2014 campaign this is hopefully a thing of the past.

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There are a couple of concerns with Grandal’s playing ability as well. While he does have a nice offensive package, he strikes out quite a bit. His K% of 26% was the highest of his career in 2014 and he has always had some swing and miss in his game, but that number will likely go down a bit in future seasons. His biggest defect, though, could be his throwing arm behind the plate. In 2014, Grandal only threw out 7 of 56 attempted base stealers, which is definitely concerning. So far in his short major league career this has been a major struggle of his.

There’s also the issue that Molina has another year left on his contract worth $2.75 million for 2015. The Rays have little payroll room as it is, and they certainly will not want to make that a sunk cost. The Rays will hope to find a trade partner to take on that salary, but that seems unlikely. Molina was so poor at the plate that the Rays could just cut their losses and release him and bring in another catcher, but he’s still a valuable pitch-framer himself, and that complicates the decision to keep him around or not.

While Grandal does have his share of flaws, he represents a major upgrade at the catcher position as opposed to Molina, and he has the upside to be a very good catcher. Grandal would give the Rays’ a young, cost controlled catcher for years to come who can immediately upgrade the offense and should not be a liability behind the plate. A pairing of Grandal and Ryan Hanigan would give the Rays both a pretty sound defensive and offensive catching tandem. The Rays have the pieces to make a deal happen and should strongly consider doing so.