The Dodgers are “definitely” issuing a $17.9MM qualifying offer to catcher Yasmani Grandal before today’s deadline to do so, reports Joel Sherman of the New York Post (Twitter link). The team could also issue a QO to left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu, though there’s still an internal debate whether to do so or simply let Ryu hit free agency without the potential for draft pick compensation.
The decision to issue Grandal a QO at that rate may come as a surprise for some, particularly in the wake of an ugly postseason effort that was underscored by uncharacteristic defensive miscues. But Grandal was one of the game’s most productive catchers with the bat this season, has long rated as an elite pitch framer (arguably the best and most consistent in baseball) and is consistently average or better in terms of controlling the running game. The switch-hitter will turn 30 next month and, even in spite of that ugly postseason showing, should have little trouble securing at least a three-year contract in an offseason where several contenders are in clear need of upgrades behind the plate.
It’d be a surprise to see Grandal accept the QO, though even if he does so, the Dodgers would likely be pleased to retain him on a one-year deal after he hit .241/.349/.466 with 24 home runs in 2018. Only Salvador Perez hit more home runs than Grandal among big league catchers, and only Wilson Ramos and J.T. Realmuto turned in a better all-around offensive performance when adjusting for league and park (by measure of wRC+). By that measure, the average catcher was 16 percent worse than a league-average hitter; Grandal, conversely, was 25 percent better than a league-average hitter.
That gap in production should lead to considerable interest on the open market. The Nationals, Rockies, Red Sox, Astros, Phillies, Braves, Brewers, Mets, Angels, Twins and Dodgers themselves are among the teams who could use help behind the plate next year.
As for Ryu, the decision likely boils down to the Dodgers’ tolerance for risk. The lefty was excellent when healthy this season, pitching to a masterful 1.97 ERA with 9.7 K/9 against 1.6 BB/9 in 82 1/3 innings. Ryu, however, missed three months with a significant groin tear and has made just 40 starts over the past four seasons combined. While his performance on a per-inning basis is undoubtedly worth that level of pay in today’s baseball climate, the Dodgers would face the risk that Ryu would accept the QO given concerns other teams would have about surrendering draft compensation and paying a premium for a pitcher with such pronounced durability issues.