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The Blue Jays have met with the representatives for free-agent catcher Yasmani Grandal, reports ESPN’s Marly Rivera (via Twitter).
It’s perhaps a curious fit upon first glance, given the Jays’ stated focus on adding rotation help, but interest in Grandal reflects both the Jays’ bulk of payroll flexibility and the uniqueness he brings to the free-agent market. One of the best-hitting catchers in the game (if not the best), Grandal also rates as an elite pitch framer, a quality pitch blocker and an average or better thrower. The switch-hitter, who turned 31 last week, has been an above-average hitter from both sides of the plate in four of the past five years and has clubbed 22 or more home runs each season from 2016-19.
Beyond his offensive acumen, bringing on a catcher with Grandal’s experience and framing abilities could be viewed as an important aspect of the Jays’ development of young pitchers. The Toronto rotation is teeming with uncertainty, but young arms like Anthony Kay, Trent Thornton, Sean Reid-Foley, Jacob Waguespack, Nate Pearson and T.J. Zeuch will all likely log some MLB innings in 2020, and the Jays have several intriguing arms on the horizon beyond that bunch. Newly acquired righty Chase Anderson is surely comfortable with throwing to Grandal as well.
Toronto already has Danny Jansen, Reese McGuire and Luke Maile on the 40-man roster, though the Jays have reportedly been receiving trade interest in some of their backstops. Jansen, in particular, rates out as a brilliant defender and was ranked among the game’s top 100 prospects as recently as last offseason. This year’s .207/.279/.360 batting line wasn’t much to look at, but Jansen is only is still just 24 and has another five seasons of club control remaining.
The Jays shouldn’t be considered any kind of favorite to win the Grandal bidding based on one early meeting, of course. GM Ross Atkins and his staff are surely casting a wide net in free agency and doing their best to gauge interest in a variety of free agents. Knowing Grandal’s asking price could also be important when discussing the Jays’ in-house catchers in trades with other teams and, more broadly, when trying to get a sense for how the rest of the league plans to approach the winter. But the meeting between the two sides is reminder both of the fact that Toronto could be more aggressive than some would expect from a 71-win team and that Grandal will draw interest from unexpected teams between now and his eventual signing.