Free agency is here. Mostly. Players who were extended a qualifying offer still have time to decide if they will accept it or decline it – but everyone else is now free to sign with other teams. And what that means is that everyone is talking about, ranking, and predicting who will wind up where. In the last two days MLB Trade Rumors, Fangraphs, ESPN, and The Athletic have all had authors put together their lists.

MLB Trade Rumors is the best place to start. Why? Well, unlike the lists at ESPN and The Athletic, it’s free to read and doesn’t require a subscription. That said, ESPN+ and The Athletic are both worth the price of the subscription if you’ve got a few extra bucks. But what MLB Trade Rumors has that Fangraphs, which is also free to read, doesn’t, is a prediction on where the player will land.

There are over 130 players who are free agents this offseason. Some of them aren’t going to have jobs next year. And some of them didn’t even have jobs this year. But MLB Trade Rumors focused on the Top 50 free agents heading into the offseason earlier this week and they have the Cincinnati Reds making a splash or two.

While Cincinnati isn’t expected to land anyone inside of the top five, the crew at MLB Trade Rumors does believe that the Reds are going to land catcher Yasmani Grandal. The former Reds 1st round pick never made it to Cincinnati before being traded away in the deal for Mat Latos. But the Reds have been thinking about him for a while now, having pursued him last offseason, too. One of the better defensive catchers in the game, Grandal can also hit for power and get on base. As a player who had a qualifying offer extended to him in 2018, that can’t happen again. Signing him wouldn’t cost the team a draft pick. Not that it should matter given that the pick it would require would be far down the draft.

There are some reasons for why signing Yasmani Grandal would make sense. He’s arguably one of the three best catchers in baseball today. He brings a strong ability to buy his pitchers strikes with quality framing. And his bat would be a big upgrade behind the plate for the Reds, who need to add offense in a big way if they plan to compete. Tucker Barnhart made changes in the second half and hit well – but even that version, the best stretch he’s ever had, was still a little less than what you would expect to get from Grandal. With a stated goal of making the playoffs in 2020, Grandal likely gives you the best chance of getting there.

On the flip side, there are some reasons why signing Yasmani Grandal makes a little less sense, particularly for four seasons like MLB Trade Rumors suggests. The first would be that one of the Cincinnati Reds top prospects is catcher Tyler Stephenson. The 23-year-old is coming off of a strong season in Double-A with the Chattanooga Lookouts. While he likely needs to spend some time in Triple-A during 2020, he is not far from being ready. There is always uncertainty with prospects until they go out and show they can get it done at the big league level – but it’s not like the Reds have no options moving forward from the farm system to pair with Tucker Barnhart.

With that said, the team could always sign Yasmani Grandal and keep him, while trading Tyler Stephenson for something else that they need. Or they could sign Grandal and keep Tyler Stephenson around, and when he’s ready, trade Grandal for something that they need. There are options worth exploring on all fronts here.

A little bit further down the list is where the Reds are predicted to make another splash. Coming in at #12 on the top free agents list is Didi Gregorius – another former Red. Unlike Grandal, Gregorius actually did put on a Reds jersey. It wasn’t for very long – he played in eight games for Cincinnati in September of 2012 before being traded that offseason to Arizona in a deal that also included Trevor Bauer (who went to Cleveland, while the Reds landed Shin-Soo Choo).

For Cincinnati it could be a big upgrade at shortstop. But the key there is the word could. After having Tommy John surgery, Didi Gregorius didn’t quite show up as the same hitter that he had been the previous two years for the Yankees. In both 2017 and 2018 he was an above-average hitter, posting a .277/.326/.486 line with 50 doubles, five triples, and 52 home runs in 270 games played. But in 2019 he hit just .238/.276/.441. The power was still there in the 82 games that he did play, but the rest of the stats simply weren’t.

The shortstop market, at least among free agents is thin. It’s so thing that it’s basically Didi Gregorius and then a handful of guys who are likely backup infielders on competing teams. Cincinnati won’t be the only team looking at Gregorius, who will be 30-years-old next year, and trying to land the only starting caliber shortstop on the market. And they won’t be the only team hoping that if they do that they’ll get the healthy 2017-2018 version of him, too. If so, it would be a very big upgrade to the offense. But if not and it’s more of a 2019 version, well, that’s not going to be much help when it comes to scoring more runs.

Fangraphs rated Yasmani Grandal as their #5 free agent on the market. They had Didi Gregorius at #9. Kiley McDaniels had this to say about Grandal:

If you haven’t looked, you may not believe it: Grandal has posted five straight seasons of 4 or 5 WAR. In a catching landscape that increasingly looks like a Mad Max film, the backstop keeps performing, though I’m sure his fingers are crossed that robo umps are still a ways off given his +134 runs career framing figure.

First off, that’s a great movie reference. Secondly, adding 3-4 wins would go a long way for the Reds who are currently projected to fall in the 82-85 win range. That move alone isn’t likely enough, but coupling that with a move to add Gregorius certainly could place them right where they want to be.

Jim Bowden wrote up details for the 35 top free agents at The Athletic on Monday. While he doesn’t predict where anyone will ultimately sign, he does give contract predictions and teams that fit best for the player. Old Leather Pants thinks the Reds will be looking at the catching market. He suggests the Reds are best fits for Yasmani Grandal, Robinson Chirinos, and Travis d’Arnaud. Bowden also thinks that the Reds are a good fit for Didi Gregorius. His projection for a contract is significantly different from everyone else – he believes Gregorius signs a 1-year deal and tries to test the market again in 2021.

Keith Law of ESPN seems to be a big believer in Didi Gregorius. He thinks that he’ll return to his previous levels and thinks a big contract may be on the horizon for the shortstop.

He’s a mediocre-to-low OBP hitter with plus power, especially for a shortstop, and a below-average runner with great instincts who has shown plus range since he was a prospect. He’s also the only everyday middle infielder available in free agency this winter, and that alone might push him to four or five years at $20 million per, which would be a bargain if he gets all the way back to his 2017-18 production.

The Didi Gregorius market is going to be rather interesting to watch for the reason mentioned above: He’s the only real shortstop out there. The trade market does exist, but it’s always better to just have to spend money to get a player to fill a need than to spend money and trade someone else away to fill a need.

There’s money there for the Reds to spend. And there are more than a few places they could spend it to improve the roster. We’ve written about improving the catching position – mostly focusing on Yasmani Grandal. We wrote about the middle infield, mostly focusing on Didi Gregorius. The outfield had several options worth exploring, too. And then yesterday we also looked at the starting pitchers who could help swing the team in the right direction.

Photo of Yasmani Grandal by Ian D’Andrea. Photo has been modified slightly to fit the ratio of the site. License can be found here.

43 Responses

  1. DocProc

    I’m all in on both signings.
    Grandal not only brings a big bat and shores up the C position, but he provides relief for Votto at 1b. That’s going to become increasingly important.
    Gregorius is a classic opportunity to “buy low.” His numbers in 2017-18 were among the best in baseball at SS.
    We cleared out salary and have money to spend. These guys will cost us no players or prospects. Make the deals.

  2. CFD3000

    Grandal for 2 years, high AAV, then Stephenson in 2022. Or Grandal for 4 years, lower AAV, to be traded when Tyler arrives in Cincinnati. Pass on Gregorius. Focus on trading for a top SS prospect who is blocked by the current starter – I believe there are two or three good candidates to consider. I’m hoping the FO gets a little creative there. Didi feels like the kind of flashy but ultimately too safe a move that prior administrations would have made, more likely to end in meh than any real upgrade for the offense.

  3. Stock

    I have heard the Reds have $40 million or so to spend this winter. I would love to see Grandal, Didi and Betances signed.

    Trade Stephenson for an OF.

    I would love for them to find a way to bring in Will Smith too.

  4. burtgummer

    I’ll believe it when I see it

  5. Steve Schoenbaechler

    I am beginning to accept the Grandal signing. I just don’t see Didi, though. I can’t help thinking that if the Reds are going to improve at SS, they are going to have to be creative. Like, bringing in a 3rd baseman and moving Suarez to SS. Or, bringing in a CF and moving Senzel to SS. Something of that sort.

    One thing, though. If we sign Grandal, that makes Tucker tradebait. Match him with an OF, we might be able to bring in a starting SS. Or, with what I’ve said before, I could see the Reds pinning their offensive hopes on the youth, that Winker will live up to his minor league stats, as well as Senzel, JVM, etc. As well as Bandino, who may be able to step in at SS. At least the rate he got on base last season, it’s better than we could possibly get with anyone else.

    • Bob Purkey

      There is no way that Suarez can play SS now. He is much bulkier than when the Reds traded for him a few years back. He has the build of a 3B or LF now. Wish you were right, as it would open up some additional alternatives, but no way right now.

      • Steve Schoenbaechler

        I didn’t say we should press for that. I specified that the Reds would need to be creative, I believe. As in, doing something out of the norm. Like having a bulkier SS who can still slug 50 HR’s to improve an offense.

        You know, like people said that Hamilton and Senzel would never be able to play CF because they never played OF in their lives.

        Again, I specify this because I just don’t believe we would get our ROI when a left handed C batting 249 who simply walks a lot and a SS still returning from a serious operation.

    • jon

      2 things i can say for certain: Senzel or Suarez won’t be the Reds SS in 2020.

  6. CI3J

    Sign Grandal.

    Sign Didi.

    And the big one: Trade for Mookie Betts, then sign him to a long term, Votto-esque deal. Make him the centerpiece of the offense for the next 10 years. I don’t know how viable it is, but Mookie is reported to be worth close to $30 million a year, so he’s probably looking at a 10 year/$300 million contract offer. Why not the Reds?

    If they add Mookie, Grandal, and Didi, they will be taking on in the range of $50-$60 million. But if they trade/non-tender Igelsias ($9 million), Gausman ($10.5 million), Tucker ($3.5 million), and Peraza ($3.5 million), that would put them back in the “add $40 million” range they talked about. Why not the Reds?

    The Reds have whiffed on adding franchise-changing players in the recent past (Yelich, Realmuto, Ozuna, et. al.), but Mookie is better than all of them, and he’s rumored to be available this year. Why not the Reds?

    Opportunities like this don’t come along very often.

    Why not the Reds?

    • BK

      If Grandal is signed trading Barnhart makes sense. Iglesias could also use a change of scenery. However, both are signed and can’t be non-tendered which could put the Reds in a scenario where they sell low with other teams knowing the Reds really want to move on.

      • CI3J

        Yeah, that’s why I said “trade/nontender”, the list was a mixture of candidates. Iglesias I could see being part of the Mookie trade. And Barnhart could also be traded for some spare parts if Grandal is signed. But Peraza, and Gausman will probably be non-tendered, so that’s money coming off the books there too.

    • Redleg4life

      I like Mookie Betts. He could play center and move senzel to second. My thing is what would we have to give up for him. We need a young catcher like Stephenson. Maybe we can Trade a few relievers, but even if we get him it will be very difficult for us to bring him back next year.

      • CI3J

        I would start with a package of R. Iglesias and India, and see where things go from there. The Sox need young and cheap pitchers, so maybe someone like Mahle would really intrigue them, or Santillin.

        The point is, if the Reds really wanted Betts, they have the pieces to make it happen. And unlike the Sox, they don’t have a ton of money committed to other players outside Votto (and Bauer, if they want to bring him back), so they absolutely could take on another long-term superstar-level contract, and they won’t find many better players than Betts. It would also solve the CF blackhole that has existed since Jr. Griffey’s first season in Cincinnati.

  7. GhostRunner

    I would keep Stephenson. Grandal could be a great mentor for him. And hoping they don’t trade Lodolo.

  8. SultanofSwaff

    I think the competition for Didi’s services will price him out of the Red’s plans. While I have no problem with bringing back Iglesias under the assumption the Reds acquire a pair of 3 WAR position players elsewhere, I think Senzel could more than do the job. I’d also like to see the Reds explore a trade for Seagar and/or Story.

    This class of catchers has more quantity which should keep the costs relatively sane, although Stephenson is an untouchable for me and I’d prefer they allocate the money elsewhere.

  9. Klugo

    I think DIDi gets a bit of a pass this season because of the injury he’s coming back from. I think he has a chance to come back full circle with a full off-season without rehab.

  10. Optimist

    Still intrigued by the Red Sox salary situation. If it truly is akin to the Dodgers, there may be opportunities there which negate the FA route. Betts May be a bit too rich, but if Price or Bogaerts is available, they should jump. IIRC, each is also not a one-and-done deal, so that helps as well.

  11. BK

    A key disadvantage both of these players have is that they are really the only players available at their individual positions. Expect to pay a premium for their services. To put the risk associated with Gregorius in perspective consider these 2019 results:

    – Gregorius: 87 OPS+, 0.6 bWAR (projects to roughly 1 bWAR over a full season)
    – J. Iglesias: 85 OPS+, 1.5 bWAR
    – Galvis: 92 OPS+, 1.6 bWAR

    Fangraphs has all three at essentially the same fWAR when adjusting Gregorius to a full season. To sign Gregorius, the Reds have to be super confident he’ll produce at a 2017-18 level. Otherwise, play Galvis and fortify the team around him. At the prices circulating, I don’t see either player as a great value. I’m not confident Gregorius is an upgrade at all.

    • Colorado Red

      that is the $$$ question. If he goes back to 2017 – 2018, it is a great deal, else, not so much.

  12. Scott C

    I am all in on improving the catcher position and shortstop position. I believe both would be upgrades to what we have if Didi comes back to form. I would like to see CF upgraded and Senzel moved back to second but even if that doesn’t happen I think we will be all right. If we can keep Senzel and Winker on the field.

  13. AirborneJayJay

    I believe the Reds will shy away from the free agents that were given a qualifying offer by their teams.
    But I also do believe that the Reds will sign 2 of these six free agents in C-Yasmani Grandal, OF-Nicholas Castellanos, SS-Didi Gregorius, 2B-Mike Moustakas, OF-Corey Dickerson, or LHSP-Dallas Keuchel.
    Then at least 1 lesser free agent for the bullpen.
    I think the Reds will try to sign Grandal rather quickly before Thanksgiving. Then they will spend their time on one more free agent and trying to get conversations started on trade talks before the Winter Meetings in December. If they get Grandal in the fold before the Winter Meetings, I can envision 2 big trades involving the Reds at the Winter Meetings.

    • Redleg4life

      I like Kuechel, Grandal, and Moustakas the best out of those free agents. Which trades do you envision? Barnhart perhaps, or our closer Iglesias.

  14. RedNat

    unless we are expecting huge internal improvements from Votto, Senzel, Winker, and Ervin I don’t think Grandal and Gregorius will be enough to push this offensive over the edge. I may be in the minority here but I say spend all of the 40 mil upgrading the pitching and cross our fingers that are farm system can produce a couple of more hitters this year.

    • Redleg4life

      We need another starter and a few lefties in the bullpen, but we should still sign an impact bat to help the lineup. I would focus on a consistent bat for the lineup because our young lineup struggled with hitting consistently. We also relied a little too much on the homer. So I would want someone like votto once was, a gapshot hitter who can pressure the opposing pitcher.

  15. Mark

    I am also all in on Grandal and Didi. I think you also upgrade at Catcher by bringing up Stephenson to backup Grandal. I feel that Gausman can be your closer next year. I am holding onto R. Stephenson he showed promise this year. I am dangling R. Iglesias, Barnhart, Casali, Winker, Ervin, Siri, India and Mahle to either get another Starting Pitcher via trade or a S. Marte by trade for CF and move Senzel back to 2B. LF sign free agent Castellanos.
    So your OF would be Castellanos Marte and Aquino.
    IF would be Suarez, Didi, Senzel and Votto with Grandal as the C.
    Freddie Galvis super sub/part time starter in OF and IF along with Van Meter.

  16. Justin

    Doug hasn’t released his top 10 yet over at redsminorleagues.com, but in spots 11-25 we have zero catchers and I can’t imagine one in the top 10 outside of Stephenson. Signing Grandal to 4 years will likely mean one that we wind up trading one of them in less than 4 years time from now (assuming Stephenson continues his progression).

    DiDi was a consistent rock star before the injury. If the reds feel confident in the work that was done and it’s healing, I can’t see why we should expect anything less than a full recovery.

    Not sure what it is but I’m leaning toward not getting Grandal and spending that money on two other bats.

    Moustakas at $10 million per, Dickerson at $7 million per, DiDi at $14 million per to me is better than just Grandal and DiDi. The catching combo we had is pretty good and we’d do well if that was our one weak point in the lineup.

    That plan still leaves us enough room to go after a reliever like Pomeranz at $8 million per.

    (All numbers based on mlbtraderumors guesses)

    • Colorado Red

      Moustakas Opted out of an 11 mil contract, doubt he accepts 10.

      • BK

        Bowden at The Athletic has him 2 years at $24M. Fangraph’s median crowdsource has him at 3 years and $36M. I believe mlbtraderumors.com may be a little low, but I think about $12M/year over 2-3 years is a good estimate. He’s no better than the third best 3B available and there are other 2B available that aren’t far behind him. The other 2B are older and projected for 1 year contracts. In short, supply is working against Moustakas. If he signs a 2-3 year contract he’ll far eclipse the 1 year option he declined in total guaranteed dollars.

  17. Don

    Doug, thanks for all the great updates, your sites are how I keep up with the Reds and they are very enjoyable to read.

    Waiting to see what the FO really does as responding to each rumor and the possibilities are interesting to read. Until Spring Training rolls around and the 40 man roster with all spring training invites are know judgements are all subjective. Then off course there are usually a late spring training addition with a surprise cut from some team.

  18. FreeHouse

    I say Reds should look into Castellanos, Didi and Wheeler. I believe they can afford all 3. Grandal is good offensively but not great behind the plate. That being said I can live with Barnhart and Casali behind the plate up until Stephenson is ready for the show.

    • Optmist

      “not great behind the plate”? Apparently he’s very highly rated as a pitch framer, which is also Tucker’s weakness. Seems very complementary to Tucker, and even Casali. The better argument seems to appeal to his high AAV desire and see if 3yrs/15-20 per gets it done. It’s a bit steep, but the third year could cover both Stephenson’s arrival and Joey’s departure. Age and injuries will become issues, but even getting 100 games a year would likely be enough, if they can keep the pitching good to great.

      • Doug Gray

        Barnhart used to rate out as a below-average pitch framer – but that’s no longer the case. Grandal’s still among the best in the business, though.

  19. gusnwally

    How about calling up Colorado. Hello Rockies this is the Reds. Would you be interested in Hunter Greene and another prospect for Trevor Story. You really need pitching badly and we need a great shortstop.

    • Jefferson Green

      I like Story, but he would be easy to over-value. He is a below average hitter outside of Coors field, so while he is definitely an upgrade, he is less than he appears thanks to his home field.

  20. Ed

    Big free agents huh? Well CC Sabathia is pretty big. Aaron Judge? They’re big guys but not free agents.

  21. JoshG

    not sure on Gregorius …
    I’d like signing Grandal and making Barnhart and/or Stephenson available as trade candidates in part of a package to go get one of the big SS ( Lindor/Bogaerts / Seager)that may or may not be going on the trade block

  22. per14

    Grandal is 31 (as of this Friday). I wouldn’t sign him to anything beyond two years. Catchers fall off and fall off fast and when they do they lose most their value. Mauer was 30 when his career fell apart, and he started playing first, where he had no real value. Heck, Johnny Bench only had two good years after turning 31.

    • Jefferson Green

      Some catchers fall off, often due to injury. But many do not, and they can be extremely valuable to playoff teams. The starting catchers in the world series were 35 and 36, and 4 of the 6 divisional champs had catchers over 33. Experience is a huge asset at the catching position if the injury bug stays away. Grandal has been healthy and increased his overall production (WAR value) each of the last two years while also being the #1 catcher on playoff teams at the same time. It seems likelier than usual that he will maintain a valuable level of play over the next few years.

      • per14

        All true and fair points. My disagreement would be however that paying a free agent what it will take to secure Grandal is too risky for the Reds (with their somewhat limited payroll). They just can’t afford sunk costs and signing Grandal to anything beyond two years (which I’m certain he’ll want) carries that risk.

  23. Tom Mitsoff

    According to Spotrac, the Reds have about $108.25 million already committed in 2020 salaries (prior to arbitration and any non-tenders): https://www.spotrac.com/mlb/cincinnati-reds/payroll/

    The $108.25 million number is low due to the fact it doesn’t include the numerous pre-arbitration-eligible players who will likely make the roster.

    The best guess for what the budget line for major league salaries will increase to next year is around $140 million. Nobody but a few in the front office know the real number. Best guess if the new salary budget is $140 is that the Reds will have about $25 million to spend, which would probably buy them two above-average starting players. If they come out of free agency with that and other starting-caliber assets via trade, it will have been a very successful off-season.

    I think Grandal for three years at between $16 and $20 million per year is a risk they have to take, despite his age. Gregorius is a complete wild card, with the market for him being completely unclear because of the negative effects his TJ surgery had on his 2019 production.

    • Optimist

      Grandal at $16/3yrs. is a very acceptable risk. Didi for one is also, even if slightly overpaid, it’s still a year and he could be a difficult trade deadline candidate (i.e. he bounces back, but Reds want to keep building for 2021).

      Always fun spending OPM, but the Reds have essentially advertised it, so why not. The pitching will be most interesting since there are many more options there.

    • BK

      This is just a little color commentary to supplement Tom’s post:

      Sportrac’s total includes $5M in deferred salaries. I can’t imagine the Reds will go to arbitration with Gausman as he is projected to make $10M+ although I could see them coming to some sort of agreement more in line with Gausman working out of the pen. Peraza at $3M+ in arbitration is also a likely non-tender or an agreement for less with incentives. $25M would only one difference maker and some role players–that would be depressing.

  24. Hotto4Votto

    I guess I’m skeptical that the Reds will be players on the FA market, especially with two guys at the top of their positions in the market. There’s questions with both, and the Reds have several paths to improvement to zero in on just these two options.

    I’m guessing we’ll see creative trades similar to the salary based trade with LA last season. I’d like to be wrong, but history suggests the Reds sit out the top tiers of FA.