The most important offseason in recent memory for these Cincinnati Reds is about to begin. There are a few areas that need prioritized, whether to be upgraded through free agency or trade, one of which is the catcher position.

Tucker Barnhart

Don’t get me wrong, I love Tucker. Dude is cool as a cucumber and an awesome person to root for (did you know he likes to cook?). Part of the criteria for a championship team makes no mention of the player’s likability, however, so I am leaving these evaluations strictly on the field.

Most would agree that Tucker has had a down year. The Reds catcher has seen his offensive explosion from 2017 disappear as he will finish 2019 with an OPS+ somewhere around 80 (it currently sits at 18). What’s disconcerting, though, is his on-base plus slugging is right about where his career number is. Currently, his OPS is .687 which is just .008 less than his career average. He gets on base roughly 32% of the time (right on his career average) and actually has a batting average .023 points less than his career average.

Per Fangraphs, Barnhart has a 0.6 WAR which puts him 28th among catchers with at least 250 plate appearances. What stings a bit is the fact that former-future Red, JT Realmuto, is at the top of the list with 5.6 WAR. Tucker’s 77 WRC+ ranks second to last. Defensively he’s pretty much middle of the pack.

Curt Casali

He hasn’t been much more impressive than Tucker. Baseball Reference has him at a 1.1 WAR and Fangraphs has him at a 0.8. He gets on-base a tad more than Tucker (almost 33%) and slugs a bit more (.415). His OPS is much closer to league average, but still below it at 91. All that being said, he’s done it in just 195 at-bats. Maybe he gets better with more exposure, or maybe he gets exposed.

The problem with that line of thought is the Reds do not have the luxury of giving regular playing time to a guy who is still figuring it out in 2020. The idea is to go all in as this window of competition appears to be opening. Even if it isn’t (as some opine) then now is the time to force it open. This rebuild has looked more like a merry-go-round than anything resembling a well-oiled machine. The time is now to build a winner and it sure seems like the opening day catcher for 2020 should be Mr. Outside Hire. There’s one option that jumps out.

Yasmani Grandal

It would be a reunion, of sorts, for the Reds and the second-highest fWAR catcher of 2019. He has had a phenomenal year working on a “prove it” contract for Milwaukee. WAR can be a tricky to use as a main method of measuring a player’s worth (baseball reference has him at almost three wins less) but the rest of his numbers are impressive. He’s amassed 27 dingers and an OPS+ of 120. He gets on base almost 39% of the time and has the best isolated power of any catcher at .221.

The interesting thing will be how Milwaukee handles him. Grandal has a mutual option for 2020. If the two sides do not agree that he should remain a Brewer, he will most likely be looking for a pay raise and multi-year deal. Frankly, if he’s a free agent the Reds should hand him a blank check (so to speak) and bring him back into the fold.

Anyone else?

Really, if we’re being honest, the rest of the field isn’t all that exciting. They could look at Tyler Flowers, if the Braves do not pick up his option, or Jason Castro. Neither are more than slight upgrades over Barnhart, though. Wellington Castillo could be available, as well. He has had a rough season and could be a bounce back candidate. The one issue with him, though, is he lacks plate discipline, which is not something the Reds need to be ignoring in their quest to remodel the lineup. If Grandal is not available, the Reds may have to look at a trade if they want to upgrade at catcher.

Next week I’ll take a look at a position that all of can agree needs a lot of TLC, second base.

22 Responses

  1. AllTheHype

    What about defense, pitch calling, pitch framing, pitcher’s preference, you know, some of the MOST important things to evaluate in a catcher? Or is only offense important in this writer’s view?

    • Stock

      Doesn’t Grandal have the reputation as one of the best framers in baseball.

      Grandal would be a huge addition but I feel somewhat unrealistic. Look for Stephenson to be up before May ends.

  2. Scott C

    I totally agree that catcher is primarily the position that needs an upgrade. Looking at a lineup that has Barnhart batting fifth is not inspiring to say the least. Grandal would be my choice as well (in fact I was disappointed the Reds chose to send him to San Diego instead of Mesarosco but oh well) If not Castillo would be a distant second but would prefer a trade.
    The catcher position needs to get more production and power and a better arm. If we can add a bat here, get better production from 2’cnd base, and center we could get by with Iglesias or Galvis at short for another year. Although I would not be sorry to have an upgrade there as well. Spend some money Big Bob.

    • Scott C

      Now it is hind sight. And who knows how it would have turned out had Mesoraco not been riddled with injury. I simply preferred Grandall because he was a switch hitter. Of course so is Tucker but Tucker can’t hit hardly at all from the right side and not a lot better from the left.

  3. weigarp

    I’d go slow on Grandal for the following reasons: 1. He turns 31 in November. 2. His .249 season average is his highest since 2012. 3. If you take away his best month this year (May–average .321, 11 HRs, 19 RBIs) his numbers for the other months become pedestrian. 4. His WAR is only 2.7 this year. 5. The Dodgers let him go last season for some reason and are doing just fine without him. 6. $20 million/year on a long-term contract can be used better in other places.

  4. Chris Holbert

    I think you can carry average to below average, at perhaps catcher (TB/Casali), and to a lesser extent SS, (J Iggy or Galvis). However, those have to be the weakest offensive links, 7th and 8th consistently in the lineup. CF and 2B need to be more of a focus, and for a longer period of time. Whichever one Senzel is going to be the regular at going forward, 2B or CF, then zero in on the other, fill that and go down the list. I would set the needs list, whatever order, CF, SS, 2B, C, etc.,and move and move quick. If Tyler Stephenson is coming, then TB and Casali, are probably sufficient and under team control, from an expense perspective. IMO the other 7 “regular” everyday positions should be evaluated and looked at first. Run production is the biggest need and there are probably more options for the other 7 positions than C.

  5. wizeman

    would hate to overpay huge for grandal if stephenson close.
    hope they move senzel to second and find a centerfielder.

  6. RedNat

    watching Stephenson I don’t think he will provide much pop with the bat. i actually like Hendrick Clementina from an offensive standpoint. he has more power in his bat by far. but his defense is not the best.

    • Stock

      personally I feel that given the opportunity Stephenson would have a higher WAR next year than Aquino or VanMeter

    • Stock

      The above comment was meant to go to another comment. What this season showed us was that using ML ball’s increases your power. I think Stephenson hits 15-20 HR in the majors this year if he plays all season

  7. Matt WI

    If the Reds can’t find a bona fide upgrade, just wait for Stephenson and put their chips on some other positions. The Reds have been a great example of having bench players that get over-exposed. People got nuts about Dietrich, he faded when playing a lot. People got nuts about Casali, he faded when playing a lot. A little bit with Van Meter… but there is still a door of some possibility there. Heck, even Jose Iglesias doesn’t actually stack up compared to other SS’s across the board.

    Catchers are kind of like drafting TE’s in fantasy football. Get one of the top 3 or 4 or just wait until the later rounds, because everyone else is kind of the same.

    • RedNat

      good comparison Matt to the tight ends in football

    • Jerad

      I think Stephenson will be fine, sure his power hasn’t showed up in the minors but neither did Eugenio’s. What I like about Stephenson is for 6’4″ he does not strikeout a lot like you would expect and he has shown good plate discipline. As he matures the power will come

  8. Stock

    personally I feel that given the opportunity Stephenson would have a higher WAR next year than Aquino or VanMeter

  9. Charles) Lackey

    Leave Grandal to other teams. Why pay him a lot when Tyler S is fairly close. Wait or look around more.

    • Rembrant

      Is Stephenson that close?
      He needed time, at very lvel t e a decent hitter. He has YET to do anything in AAA.
      Tucker is a VERY solid defensive C, and after a midseason injury , came back to hit well.

      I sure do not see signs his BAT compares to Van Meter or Aquino at this point.

      We need PITCHING depth ( and more southpaws)
      I saw suggestion that we get better at SS? Iglesias has done VERY well

  10. Charles) Lackey

    Leave Grandal to other teams. Why pay him a lot when Tyler S is fairly close. Wait or look around more.

  11. TR

    Catching favors a young guy and Grandal is age 31 in 2020. I haven’t followed Tyler Stephenson’s minor league career but as a #1 pick and apparently close, bringing him up in 2020 sounds good and I like the idea of Tucker as the backup. Stephenson catching and money spent on an all around centerfielder plus extending Jose Iglesias for a couple years could signal the end of the rebuild.

    • Jerad

      A trade for Ketel Marte would be nice, perhaps Ervin, India, Santillan? I know wishful Thinking.

      • Jerad

        shoot, I’d even throw rasiel Iglesias in there

  12. Matt V

    Typo alert: I assume Tucker’s OPS+ currently sits at 81, not 18.

  13. Steve Schoenbaechler

    Honestly, with the amount of Grandal’s offensive output, I wouldn’t go after him. Reason being? The cost. This upcoming year, I believe he’s due $16 million. That’s a bit too much for me.

    Though, if we do overhaul C, he would be the one to go after, at least on the FA market.

    I would look to see what we could do at the other positions first.