Former White Sox catcher Yasmani Grandal is reportedly in “serious talks” with the Pittsburgh Pirates, according to Robert Murray of FanSided.
As things currently stand the only two catchers on the Pirates’ 40-man roster are 23-year-old Endy Rodriguez and 27-year-old Ali Sanchez. Rodriguez got his first taste of MLB action last season hitting .220 with 3 home runs, 13 RBIs and a .612 OPS in 186 at-bats. Sanchez also made his MLB debut last season but was limited to just 13 at-bats.
The 2023 season marked the final year of Grandal’s four-year $73 million contract with the White Sox. When he signed the deal before the 2020 season it marked the richest contract in White Sox history. The 34-year-old catcher told reporters at the end of the year that he was planning to test the free agency market.
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Grandal was brought in to be a stabilizing force behind the plate for a White Sox team that was supposed to be entering their contention window. Former White Sox general manager Rick Hahn targeted him for his power, postseason experience, and defense.
The season before he came to Chicago he had hit a career-high 28 home runs and was named to the inaugural All-MLB Second Team. Unfortunately for the White Sox his tenure on the South Side was riddled with injuries, underperformance, and questionable leadership.
In four seasons in Chicago, he slashed .226/.343/.375 with 44 home runs and 149 RBIs.
During the shortened 2020 season he led all AL catchers in on-base percentage (.396), hit eight home runs, and then added two more in the postseason. In 2021 he built off that by establishing career highs in OBP (.420), slugging percentage (.520), and OPS (.939). He also mashed 23 home runs, marking the fifth time in his career that he has hit 20 plus. Grandal managed to do this despite missing significant time with the torn tendon in his knee. As it turned out that would be the final season that Grandal was a productive offensive player for the White Sox.
In 2022 his stat line dropped from .240/.420/.520 with 23 homers and 63 RBIs to .202/.301/.259 with five home runs 23 RBIs and 15 runs scored. His walk rate was still at an impressive 12% but down from the 23% mark from the season before. As previously mentioned injuries played a factor in those numbers.
But even with the injuries, it was an astounding fall from grace. His -13 Batting Run Value ranked in the MLB’s 10th percentile. He ranked in the bottom nine percent in the MLB in expected Batting Average(.217) and bottom five percent in expected Slugging Percentage (.319) and Weighted On-Base Average (.263).
Grandal did manage to raise his batting average to .234 and increased his home run total to eight with 33 RBIs during his final season in Chicago. However, he didn’t have the injury excuse to lean on as he played in 19 more games.
His 4.7% barrel percentage ranked in baseball’s 14th percentile. Meanwhile, he ranked in the bottom seven percent of the league in xBA (.216), xWOBA (.278), and bottom four percent in xSLG (.324). Not only did he struggle to make contact, when failed to hit the ball hard when he did put it in play. His 87.9 average exit velocity and 34.4 Hard Hit percentage was the lowest of his career.
His defensive numbers were not much better. Grandal was considered one of the best defensive catchers in baseball when he first arrived in Chicago. But in 2022 his defense deteriorated. Sox pitchers posted a 4.21 ERA with Granal behind the plate. He threw out 13.2 percent of attempted base stealers (7-53) which placed him in baseball’s bottom third percentile. His Blocks Above Average fell to -11 and his pop time increased to 2.09 which was the slowest mark in the MLB.
His work during the offseason did improve his mobility behind the plate which in turn improved his Blocks Above Average to the MLB’s 61st percentile. He only allowed four passed balls on the season, which was his lowest total since 2020. However, baserunners still had a field day with Grandal behind the plate and once again he was only able to throw out 15 percent of baserunners.
For a Pirates team not expected to contend, Grandal may be a bridge option while they continue trying to develop Rodriguez.