The catching market is still one of the hottest areas of activity, and this morning, it’s a biggy with all kinds of ramifications for the NL Central, the trade market, and maybe Willson Contreras directly.
The Brewers have found their Yasmani Grandal replacement:
The #Brewers have found their primary replacement for Yasmani Grandal. They are close to acquiring catcher Omar Narváez from the #Mariners, a source tells The Athletic. M’s would receive at least one minor leaguer in return.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 5, 2019
The return isn’t out yet, but I will be very, very interested to see how much Narvaez can net in trade – both because it’s a cost to the Brewers, and because of the obvious market implications. Narvaez, who turns 28 in February, is projected to make just under $3 million in his first year of arbitration, so the Brewers’ cost-saving efforts continue apace.
Narvaez will project to ably replace the bat the Brewers lost in Yasmani Grandal, as his 119 wRC+ trailed only Willson Contreras (127) and Grandal (121) last year. That was his second straight season of being in that 120ish range, and his first as the primary catcher. He takes his walks, he doesn’t strike out a lot, and he hits line drives at a rate high enough to keep the BABIP solidly above .300. There’s not a ton of power there, but sometimes that comes later for catchers. He’s much better against righties than lefties, but he’s been right around league average against lefties, so it’s not like he’s a strict platoon guy.
All in all, the bat is likely legit.
On the defensive side, though, talk about a 180 from their catching setup last year, which featured one of the best few receivers in baseball. Narvaez, for all his offensive prowess, rated as the worst defensive catcher in baseball last year … by a country mile:
Putting that into runs, the downgrade from Grandal to Narvaez last year would’ve been *NEARLY 30 RUNS.* That translates to about three WINS. To the extent we buy defensive metrics for catchers (they are imperfect, but get you on the right track), the downgrade is absolutely eye-popping.
The Brewers either must feel like they aren’t going to need a great receiver/defender behind the plate, or they feel like they can dramatically improve Narvaez’s performance – which is certainly possible, as we’ve seen many catcher get into their late 20s and take huge steps forward. Heck, we’re hoping to see it from Willson Contreras!
Speaking of Contreras, note the gulf between Narvaez and Contreras on the defensive side of the ledger if you want some additional context on just how brutally bad Narvaez was last year. If you think Contreras’s framing hurt the Cubs, then yowsa.
Also speaking of Contreras, there are obvious trade implications here. Narvaez was viewed by many teams as the cheaper alternative to Contreras in trade for obvious reasons. Now, Narvaez has been traded to a suitor that was never going to be in the mix for Contreras. So the teams that do have interest in a guy like Contreras or Narvaez? Well, they just lost one of their options, and the pool of those suitors didn’t shrink.
This is not to say the Cubs are *hoping* to trade Contreras, but if they want to see what the best offers out there could be, then this trade is a big boost to those efforts.
In the meantime, the Brewers have an offensively-minded catcher, and it won’t cost them much in salary. Either they really are planning to cut payroll, or they are going to have a whoolllllle lot of money to work with to make more additions from here.
UPDATE: The price tag was … plop:
Per source, Mariners have trade in place that would send C Omar Narvaez to Milwaukee for RH pitcher Adam Hill, a 22-year-old who is Brewers' No. 24 prospect by MLB Pipeline, as well as a comp draft pick. @Ken_Rosenthal first reported a deal was in the works.
— Greg Johns (@GregJohnsMLB) December 5, 2019
That’s a 22-year-old meh pitching prospect that the Brewers got last year (as part of a package of THREE) from the Mets for Keon Broxton, and a competitive balance pick the league just gifted the Brewers. Coooooooool cool cool stuff, baby. I certainly hope Narvaez’s defense sucks.