There probably hasn’t been a trade in the history of the Mariners that I’ve hated more than the trade that sent John Jaso to the Oakland Athletics, netting the Mariners one crappy year of Michael Morse. I am a huge fan of Jaso’s, and the Mariners losing him for an older, slower version of Morse that couldn’t play anywhere but first base was aggravating.
Fortunately, or maybe not important at all, a younger, better version of Jaso may have recently come available. Per MLB Trade Rumors:
“The Padres will listen to trade offers for their top three pitchers (Ian Kennedy, Andrew Cashner, and Tyson Ross) as well as catchers, Yasmani Grandal and Rene Rivera, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reported yesterday. Presumably it would take quite an offer to part with Cashner or Ross, and Kennedy could be held and reassessed at the trade deadline. Behind the plate, the 26-year-old, former top prospect Grandal has yet to establish himself fully. Though he posted a solid 112 wRC+ last year, he also rated as one of the league’s worst defensive catchers. Rivera, meanwhile, came out of nowhere to post by far his most extensive and productive MLB season in 2014, slashing .252/.319/.432 over 329 plate appearances while grading out as one of the game’s best-fielding backstops.”
If you’re a Mariners fan you probably remember Rene Rivera’s name. He was a Mariners farmhand and spent some time with the big club. If you’re a prospect nerd or transaction nerd, you may know Grandal. He was once a top prospect, and was part of the trade that sent Mat Latos to the Cincinnati Reds. Grandal was considered an advanced hitting prospect as a switch hitter, and a guy that could stick at catcher for quite a while.
Then Biogenesis happened, and Grandal’s star has faded some. The same PED scandal that caused Jesus Montero’s suspension also hit Grandal, and then Grandal tore up his knee, ending his 2013 season.
Grandal is now 26 years old, and he’s never had an incredible offsensive season, and at least some people consider him a defensive liability.
Baseball Prospectus, the source from which MLBTR go their defensive valuation, had Grandal among the best defensive catchers in baseball in his shortened 2013 (and notably and for context had Yadier Molina as one of the worst), and Statcorner has Grandal as one of the league’s better pitch framers.
He’s had some issues keeping balls in front of him and throwing out base stealers, but his glove is completely passable behind the plate, and while the Mariners have Mike Zunino, Grandal’s bat is good enough to play at first base or designated hitter on the days he’s not catching and a right-handed pitcher is on the mound.
Against righties, Grandal has posted a career 125 wRC+, which is better than what Victor Martinez has done against righties. A league average left-handed first baseman posted a 111 wRC+ against righties. A league average left-handed DH posted a 112 wRC+ against righties. A league average catcher posted a 93 wRC+ overall.
Grandal’s 119 career wRC+ would have been the fourth best on the 2014 Mariners behind Robinson Cano, Kyle Seager, and the soon-departed Michael Saunders. He’d make sense as a starting first baseman, he’d make sense as a starting designated hitter.
Grandal can fill three roles on the Mariners potentially. He’d be a marginal gain for the team if he only filled one of those roles, but his ability to fill three, to some degree, increases his value by whatever the additional player or two the Mariners are able to carry bring to the table. Maybe Yasmani Grandal means they can have a fifth outfielder. Maybe he means they can have a twelfth or thirteenth pitcher. Either way, he’d make this roster a lot better, and is still young enough that he may be able to reclaim some of the promise that has left him in the eyes of some analysts.
What it would take to get Grandal is something I’m not sure of. Maybe it costs a young arm. Maybe it costs a young position player. It probably wouldn’t cost a guy from the top of the Mariners farm system, and if the Mariners can trade from a strength to get him, Yasmani Grandal would make a perfect addition to the Mariners.