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Yasmani Grandal 2018 salary arbitration preview

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Los Angeles Dodgers v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

Salary arbitration season is here, with January 12 the date for players and teams to exchange salaries. The Dodgers have eight players eligible for arbitration this winter, with the most expensive of the group likely to be catcher Yasmani Grandal.

Last year we looked at Grandal’s case and just how hard it was to find truly comparable players, and this year is more of the same. Part of the problem is that catching is the toughest position in baseball, and consistently good backstops are hard to find.

Recent catcher contract extensions

Players Years 5th yr 6th yr Inc.
Players Years 5th yr 6th yr Inc.
Y.Molina 07-08 $3.25m $4.25m +30.8%
V.Martinez 08-09 $4.25m $5.7m +34.1%
B.McCann 10-11 $5.5m $6.5m +18.2%
C.Ruiz 10-11 $2.75m $3.7m +34.5%
K.Suzuki 12-13 $5m $6.45m +29.0%
B.Posey 14-15 $10.5m $16.5m +57.1%
C.Santana 15-16 $6m $8.25m +37.5%
J.Lucroy 15-16 $3m $4m +33.3%
Carlos Santana was still a catcher for the first two years of his contract, which was signed in 2012.

Many teams over the last decade or so have locked up young catchers to contract extensions signed prior to their arbitration years.

Given the timing of these contracts and the risk involved in signing the long-term deals, there isn’t much we can take from the annual salaries themselves, but we might be able to learn something form the year-to-year increase from each catcher’s fifth season to his sixth year.

That is where Grandal is now, with five years, 115 days of major league service time and one more year before qualifying for free agency.

The average increase for these eight catchers heading into their sixth year is 34.3%. Grandal earned $5.5 million in 2017, and adding 34.3% to that would put him just shy of $7.4 million in 2018.

The elephant in the room

Grandal slumped in the second half in 2017 and saw his walk rate plummet, and lost his starting job in the postseason to Austin Barnes, who started 13 of 15 games behind the plate for the Dodgers, including every World Series game.

With the Dodgers suddenly in a position to stay under the competitive balance tax threshold in 2018, Grandal’s pending salary might be too much of a luxury to keep, especially if he doesn’t carry a starter’s load.

For next season the best case scenario is probably for Barnes and Grandal to share time behind the plate, if that is even feasible. Grandal is still a valuable player, but it remains to be seen if the Dodgers will utilize that value in his production or through what he might bring back in a trade.


For comparable catchers that went year to year through the arbitration process, I went back a little further this year just to widen the field a little bit. First up, here are the career numbers.

Grandal comparable catchers (career)

Players Years Service PA HR BA/OBP/SLG OPS+ wOBA wRC+ rWAR fWAR Salary
Players Years Service PA HR BA/OBP/SLG OPS+ wOBA wRC+ rWAR fWAR Salary
Yasmani Grandal 2012-17 5.115 2,142 89 .240/.339/.435 113 0.337 115 10.9 11.6 TBD
Wilson Ramos 2010-15 5.047 1,781 61 .258/.301/.411 93 0.308 92 6.5 6.9 $5,350,000
Jason Castro 2010-15 5.104 1,890 51 .237/.309/.393 94 0.309 95 8.6 8.0 $5,000,000
A.J. Ellis 2008-15 5.151 1,761 35 .243/.347/.360 98 0.313 100 7.7 7.3 $4,500,000
Matt Wieters 2009-14 5.129 2,722 92 .257/.320/.423 100 0.323 98 13.8 15.1 $8,300,000
Jarrod Saltalamacchia 2007-12 5.043 1,733 64 .239/.302/.418 89 0.314 88 3.5 3.5 $4,500,000
Mike Napoli 2006-11 5.151 2,236 122 .264/.359/.514 129 0.375 131 16.5 17.3 $9,400,000
Russell Martin 2006-11 5.150 3,189 72 .267/.359/.398 100 0.335 104 18.5 18.4 $7,500,000
Miguel Montero 2006-11 5.031 1,822 58 .271/.338/.458 105 0.340 103 7.6 7.8 $5,900,000
Thanks as always to MLB Trade Rumors, Cot’s Baseball Contracts & Baseball-Reference

Grandal has better career numbers than over half of this group, with Matt Wieters and Russell Martin besting him in bulk numbers and Mike Napoli (back when he was a catcher) the only one measurably better than Grandal on offense.

The average sixth-year salary of these eight catchers is $6.3 million, with half of them earning less than what Grandal made in year five ($5.5 million).

Here are these same catchers with their numbers from their launch years, when they attained five years of service time.

Grandal comparable catchers (single season)

Players Year Service PA HR BA/OBP/SLG OPS+ wOBA wRC+ rWAR fWAR Salary Prev $ Increase
Players Year Service PA HR BA/OBP/SLG OPS+ wOBA wRC+ rWAR fWAR Salary Prev $ Increase
Yasmani Grandal 2017 5.115 482 22 .247/.308/.459 100 0.325 102 2.2 2.5 TBD $5,500,000 TBD
Wilson Ramos 2015 5.047 504 15 .229/.258/.358 66 0.265 62 0.8 0.3 $5,350,000 $3,550,000 +50.7%
Jason Castro 2015 5.104 375 11 .211/.283/.365 79 0.284 80 1.3 1.5 $5,000,000 $4,000,000 +25.0%
A.J. Ellis 2015 5.151 217 7 .238/.355/.403 113 0.336 116 1.6 2.2 $4,500,000 $4,250,000 +5.9%
Matt Wieters 2014 5.129 112 5 .308/.339/.500 132 0.365 134 0.7 0.9 $8,300,000 $7,700,000 +7.8%
Jarrod Saltalamacchia 2012 5.043 448 25 .222/.288/.454 97 0.319 96 1.5 1.9 $4,500,000 $2,500,000 +80.0%
Mike Napoli 2011 5.151 432 30 .320/.414/.631 173 0.445 179 5.4 5.4 $9,400,000 $5,800,000 +62.1%
Russell Martin 2011 5.150 476 18 .237/.324/.408 95 0.324 100 2.7 2.4 $7,500,000 $4,000,000 +87.5%
Miguel Montero 2011 5.031 553 18 .282/.351/.469 121 0.353 118 4.1 3.9 $5,900,000 $3,200,000 +84.4%
Thanks as always to MLB Trade Rumors, Cot’s Baseball Contracts & Baseball-Reference

Martin seems like the closest comp here for Grandal in launch year production, especially in WAR. But even Martin isn’t the best comparable catcher because his 2011 season came after he was non-tendered by the Dodgers and was coming off a rare hip injury and actually took a pay cut from his 2010 season, from $5.05 million to $4 million. Martin got $7.5 million from the Yankees in 2012 in his final year of salary arbitration.

The guess

MLB Trade Rumors projected a salary of $7.7 million for Grandal in 2018, but that Martin number seems closer to me. I will guess a $7.4 million salary for Grandal next season.