So the Brewers just signed former Dodger Yasmani Grandal to a one-year, $18.25 million contract. Ugh. That’s a heck of a deal for Milwaukee. Not only did they add a catcher who can actually hit, but they also get one of the most valuable defensive backstops in baseball.
According to FRAA, Baseball Prospectus’s all-encompassing catching defense metric, Grandal was the best defensive catcher in MLB last season. Willson Contreras, on the other hand, ranked second-to-last. Yikes.
If Contreras has been improving in the eyes of Cubs coaches over the last three seasons, it hasn’t been captured by FRAA. Since debuting in 2016, his numbers have actually gone down every year, as we pointed out in a previous post here at Cubs Insider.
Like Contreras, Victor Caratini’s defensive value is also rated below league average. More than 55 percent of catchers last season (minimum 2,000 pitches caught) ranked better defensively.
As with any stats that don’t show up in box scores, there are skeptics who don’t take catching metrics at face value, if they put any stock in them at all. And Grandal’s inability to block pitches in last year’s NLCS was a huge narrative that ended up costing him playing time and sullied his image among casual observers.
But if you watched a lot of games last season, you might recognize that Grandal is a real steadying force behind the plate. Contreras, on the other hand, looked a bit iffy receiving pitches at times. And when you’re talking about a tight division in which every little advantage is important, it’s very possible the Cubs are going to be outmatched when it comes to defense behind the plate..