Yasmani Grandal is off of the market. The Reds have been rumored to be interested in free agent Robinson Chirinos as an option. But what about the trade market? The Seattle Mariners are reportedly willing to shop their catcher, Omar Narvaez.
Amid the early and heavy movement in the catching market, one name in trades keeps coming up: Omar Narváez. The Seattle Mariners have shown a desire to move him, sources tell ESPN, and a deal could be completed soon. Narváez really can hit. His glove remains a major question.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) November 25, 2019
The Reds seem be looking to upgrade the offense this offseason, and the offense at the catcher position is one area where they could do it. It wasn’t the position where they had the lowest production – the catchers hit a combined .247/.328/.404 on the year with 23 doubles and 21 home runs. That was good for an 86 OPS+ on the season. The catchers across the league were at an 84 OPS+.
Omar Narvaez has hit .277/.358/.448 over the last two seasons between his time with the Chicago White Sox and the Seattle Mariners. That’s good for a 120 OPS+. Yasmani Grandal, for example, has also posted a 120 OPS+. The difference, offensively, between the two is that Grandal’s track record is a lot longer, and that he’s been able to play more in the last two seasons. He’s had 1150 plate appearances compared to 804 for Narvaez.
But it’s not all about the offense. As Jeff Passan’s tweet notes, there are some questions about his glove. In 2019, among catchers with at least 550 innings caught, Narvaez rated out as the second worst defensive catcher when it comes to framing according to Fangraphs. He doesn’t rate out well in the Baseball Savant framing stat, either.
With that said, even with the defensive struggles, he posted a 1.8 fWAR and a 2.1 bWAR during the 2019 season. And some of that value got dinged because he played in 22 games as a designated hitter. The Reds catching crew posted 1.7 fWAR and a 1.8 bWAR. It’s certainly worth noting here, though – that catching value misses a lot of what a catcher does. Even their defense, which places try to measure, is still sort of a guide more than at any other spot on the field.
It’s pretty clear that Omar Narvaez would go a long way to improving the offense for the team – he’s a well above-average hitter, and an elite one for the catcher position. But how much of that value he gives back on the defensive side is a legitimate concern. His biggest issue is pitch framing. That used to be an issue for Tucker Barnhart, too. But this past season he went from among the worst rated in the game to an above-average. It’s a skill that can be worked on, and improved.
His contract status could make him an interesting pick up, too. He’s not a free agent until after the 2022 season. He’s entering his first year of arbitration. MLB Trade Rumors projects him to get $2.9M in arbitration. The combination of his bat, and his contract, probably makes his cost of acquisition, well, not cheap. Perhaps teams will hold the defense against him in negotiations with the Mariners to try and bring it down. It will be interesting to see if anyone can meet the asking price, and where he winds up.