Yasmani Grandal is off of the market. The Reds have been rumored to be interested in free agent Robinson Chirinos as an option. But what about the trade market? The Seattle Mariners are reportedly willing to shop their catcher, Omar Narvaez.

The Reds seem be looking to upgrade the offense this offseason, and the offense at the catcher position is one area where they could do it. It wasn’t the position where they had the lowest production – the catchers hit a combined .247/.328/.404 on the year with 23 doubles and 21 home runs. That was good for an 86 OPS+ on the season. The catchers across the league were at an 84 OPS+.

Omar Narvaez has hit .277/.358/.448 over the last two seasons between his time with the Chicago White Sox and the Seattle Mariners. That’s good for a 120 OPS+. Yasmani Grandal, for example, has also posted a 120 OPS+. The difference, offensively, between the two is that Grandal’s track record is a lot longer, and that he’s been able to play more in the last two seasons. He’s had 1150 plate appearances compared to 804 for Narvaez.

But it’s not all about the offense. As Jeff Passan’s tweet notes, there are some questions about his glove. In 2019, among catchers with at least 550 innings caught, Narvaez rated out as the second worst defensive catcher when it comes to framing according to Fangraphs. He doesn’t rate out well in the Baseball Savant framing stat, either.

With that said, even with the defensive struggles, he posted a 1.8 fWAR and a 2.1 bWAR during the 2019 season. And some of that value got dinged because he played in 22 games as a designated hitter. The Reds catching crew posted 1.7 fWAR and a 1.8 bWAR. It’s certainly worth noting here, though – that catching value misses a lot of what a catcher does. Even their defense, which places try to measure, is still sort of a guide more than at any other spot on the field.

It’s pretty clear that Omar Narvaez would go a long way to improving the offense for the team – he’s a well above-average hitter, and an elite one for the catcher position. But how much of that value he gives back on the defensive side is a legitimate concern. His biggest issue is pitch framing. That used to be an issue for Tucker Barnhart, too. But this past season he went from among the worst rated in the game to an above-average. It’s a skill that can be worked on, and improved.

His contract status could make him an interesting pick up, too. He’s not a free agent until after the 2022 season. He’s entering his first year of arbitration. MLB Trade Rumors projects him to get $2.9M in arbitration. The combination of his bat, and his contract, probably makes his cost of acquisition, well, not cheap. Perhaps teams will hold the defense against him in negotiations with the Mariners to try and bring it down. It will be interesting to see if anyone can meet the asking price, and where he winds up.

Photo of Omar Narvaez by Richard Bartlaga. Photo’s colors have been modified. License can be found here.

38 Responses

  1. doofus

    Defense first behind the plate. I would not be looking for elite Bench-like defense, but jeez Narvaez is bad.

  2. doofus

    Narvaez has a noodle for an arm, cannot spell “frame” and is on a first name basis with everyone that sits behind home plate.

  3. Tom Mitsoff

    Catcher is one position where you simply can’t overlook poor defense.

    • AirborneJayJay

      Ain’t that the truth. Narvaez is a LH hitter too, so that would probably mean taking Barnhart’s place on the roster. It would be nice to keep Barnhart in the C tandem to be honest and look for a possible upgrade for Casali. But Casali is not bad either. Both were so banged up last year, but Barnhart really rebounded after his month long stay on the Injured List. Casali came into the season mending a knee injury and just didn’t see his season get off the ground much. He seemed to be hurt most of the year. Both should be much healthier and probably more productive for 2020.
      If you aren’t getting a Realmuto or a Grandal, no sense tinkering with the C position until other areas are addressed first, like SS and CF and 2B and corner OF and the bullpen.

  4. Colorado Red

    Curt and Tucker where a combine 1.8 WAR (baseball reference). Do not see this as much as an overall upgrade (both D and O).
    McCain from the White Sox would look much better, probably cost more.

    • Sean

      No! We don’t want him, he had an outstanding first half, then went back to his career average second half which is barley replacement level. He has had half a season of good track record and multiple bad seasons

    • JB

      I might be wrong but I believe i read McCain is about as bad defensively as well. Mlbtraderumors had this story yesterday and I think they said McCain was as bad as Narvaez.

  5. Hunt4RedsOct

    Interesting that Tucker’s pitch framing drastically improved when the starting rotation drastically improved.

  6. Matt Butler

    With Grandal off the market, I guess I’d rather look to upgrade offensively in the middle infield and outfield, and keep Tucker/Casali behind the plate.

  7. Scott C

    Having umpired fast pitch softball for over 20 years I’m not putting a lot of stock in pitch framing. Yes I know the girls are not throwing it at 90+ and that the catchers I am seeing are very young but the pitcher still has to throw the ball over part of the plate. One of the guys on MLB Tonight was pointing out that even though the speed of the ball continually increases the umpire behind the plate has one job, “watch the ball come across the plate.” To a large extent I agree with that. You have pitchers with better control you have better pitch framing. The areas of defense that I would be concerned about is can he block a ball and can he throw. Those areas would have to be at least comparable to what we have now before I would be sold.am sure that

    • Bob Purkey

      Scott C: Agree with you 100%, except that I don’t think arm strength is as important as it once was. Base stealing has reduced dramatically over the past decade or so with the “long ball philosophy” and therefore arm strength is less important. Having a quick release is just as important as long as the catcher doesn’t have a complete rag arm.

      • Scott C

        I can’t argue with that, but it still can be plus.

    • Hotto4Votto

      The MLBTR article said he improved a good amount with blocking/passed balls. Isn’t there a line of thinking that stolen bases are just as much on the pitcher as the catcher? My thinking is that defense can be improved, and he’s shown that ability to improve with the passed balls. The Reds definitely need more offense and shouldn’t be too choosy where it comes from as long as the price is right.

    • Sean D

      I sort of agree. It’s very clear that major league umpire miss on a lot of calls due to the catcher’s performance, good or bad. I have seen strike literally right down the middle called balls because the catcher caught it so badly. I have also seen balls 4 inches off the plate called strike because the catcher caught it outstandingly. And if the same catchers are always at the top of the framing leaderboards it’s clear they are doing something to influence all the umpires

  8. asinghoff99

    Pitch framing won’t be an issue once they start using robo umps. Could very well be before he becomes a free agent.

    • Colorado Red

      Will still be a few years.
      Still have not perfected the technology.
      Seems to be issues with top and bottom of the zone.
      Will start in the lower level minor leagues, then go up.

      • Bob Purkey

        Heck, regular umps have problems with the top and bottom of the zone too. . . as well as in and out, also.

      • Colorado Red

        Yes, Bob, you correct.
        But, I still think this will take a while to get overall acceptance.
        The technology is there for it to work.
        But I still think it is a few years down the road. 22 or 23 at the earliest.

  9. Chris Holbert

    If the “more important” offensive positions are upgraded, the Reds can get away with average from the C position. What they cannot afford is average to below from SS, CF, 1B and 2B. Upgrade those and let C alone, and do not bat them cleanup….

  10. BK

    Personally, I think Narvaez would be a great acquisition and I don’t think the asking price would be a deal breaker:

    – 28 years old, just entering his prime
    – Improved from 12 to 3 passed balls from ‘18 to ‘19
    – His limited playing time and questionable defense should keep the asking price down (I’m thinking someone like Jose Siri or Stuart Fairchild in exchange.
    – Reds could then move Barnhart and reallocate $4M/year this year and next
    – LH bat matches nicely with Casali now and Tyler Stephenson later
    – .361 career OBP is exactly what the Reds need to add in their lineup
    – His 2.1 WAR replaces O.6 WAR, Casali’s 1.2 WAR remains netting the Reds about 1.5 WAR for a mid-tier prospect

    On the other hand, Steamer’s projection is not optimistic offensively or defensively. Baseball Reference sees his offensive production continuing.

    • Hotto4Votto

      I agree with this. We have to make upgrades to the offense where we can, and if we can do it at a cost that isn’t prohibitive then even better.

    • rgslone

      Wow, if the Reds could actually get Narvaez for Siri, I believe they should do that immediately before the Mariners change their mind. But I just have a hard time believing that is realistic. On the other hand, I readily admit that I don’t know what would be needed in a trade to get Narvaez. But, if Siri is the center-piece of a trade for Narvaez I would do that in a heartbeat.

      • BK

        While I like Narvaez, he’s a platoon player at best for the Reds. He has defensive questions. If he were a more complete player, then he might warrant a greater return. The Mariners need a CF. They are building for 2021 and beyond. Siri or Fairchild might be a good fit. They also need pitching, so perhaps the Reds offer Romano as his chances of sticking with the Reds for a full season are marginal. If the Mariners want one pf our Top 6 (Lodolo, Greene, Stephenson, Garcia, India, or Santillan), I think they walk away. Anyone else or some combination of two is fair in my opinion.

  11. DocRed

    Tucker didn’t magically improving his framing in one year…he actually got a good pitching staff this year. Framing is so overrated for catchers, Tucker is proof of this

    • Doug Gray

      While I certainly agree that the pitchers on a staff do help/hurt catchers with the pitch framing metrics, it’s a lot more than that.

      Here’s what Tucker said this year – link :

      “We identified some things this offseason that could make me better behind the plate as far as pitch framing was concerned,” Barnhart said. “I don’t really want to get into them, but something that I felt pretty quickly I could institute in my game. It wasn’t something like a wholesale change necessarily that took a lot of time.

      “It has taken a while. It’s been good. It’s been nice to continue to evolve.”

      • doofus

        Before 2019 Barnhart would jerk his glove into the strike zone after he caught the ball. The motion was a dead giveaway. In 2019 there was subtle movement after the catch.

  12. Nate

    I’m just not impressed with the options after Grandal compared to who is currently on the roster. I’m sure there is room for improvement but I would focus elsewhere.

    I don’t think he’s worth giving up a top 15 prospect,

  13. Jake Y.

    As others have noted, I’m not sure the Reds are really in the market for a catcher outside of elite options (i.e. Realmuto last offseason and Grandal this offseason). The rest of the options seem to be marginal upgrades at best.

  14. SultanofSwaff

    For me, the question is this—if you’re going to give up prospect capital to acquire a 4 win player, what position would be your preference? Personally, I’m looking at CF or SS first, as those players tend to be on the field more games per year. Second, I hope the Reds don’t give up 6 years of control over Tyler Stephenson for the immediate payout of someone like Narvaez. I just think TS is going to be a real good one and am willing to ride out 1/3 of the season until he’s ready.

    • TR

      +1,000. Don’t block Tyler Stephenson. I think he’s going to smooth out the up and down Red’s rebuild.

  15. doofus

    Catcher is the most important defensive position on the field. You do not want a defensive dingus behind the plate affecting your pitching staff.

    Uh, there is a reason why Seattle is willing to give him up.

    Focus on getting offense from the corner outfielders; and, Senzel and Winker healthy, there the offense is fixed. You do not need to worry about an offense only catcher.

  16. AirborneJayJay

    I believe the Reds will have a new SS by the end of this weekend. 3 years and $54MM gets it done. His name is Didi.
    Things have been very quiet regarding Gregorius recently. The Reds are ready to pounce.

    • Datdudejs@yahoo.com

      I think they are waiting to see what’s going on with lindor first

      • Colorado "18" of Snow" Red

        If you wait too long, you get neither.
        SOP for the Reds

  17. Eddiek957

    I can live with a Barnhart casali split catching. Linder would be nice

  18. doofus

    Here are the shortstops (one of which) I would like to see playing for the Reds in 2020: Lindor, Story, Willy Adames, Royce Lewis, Andres Gimenez.

    Shortstop is a young man’s position. I would be very reluctant to sign a SS who will be north of 30 years old next season.

    • Colorado Red

      What about Jonathan Villar for Baltimore.
      Have seem some article call him a non-tender candidate.
      If Baltimore is thinking that (who knows), would be a cheap pickup.

      • BK

        Villar is a really solid option. His projected arbitration salary of $10.4M is what’s driving the nontender speculation, but it’s also what makes him an attractive trade target as he doesn’t have enough surplus value to command significant prospect capital. I think an exchange of two nontender candidates could work for both sides: Villar for Peraza. Peraza performs best in a starting role and his three years of control, lower cost, and relatively young age could be attractive to a rebuilding club.