While the Cubs continue to sit on the sideline, the NL Central arms race keeps on moving along.
Wednesday night, The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal reported that the Brewers and free agent catcher Yasmani Grandal have agreed to a one-year contract. The deal is pending a physical.
Deal is pending a physical. https://t.co/6Nps9tFkde— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) January 10, 2019
Fans might remember Grandal for his nightmare performance in Game 1 of the NLCS against the Brewers. That one game aside, the catcher is a solid addition that will bolster an already dangerous Brewers lineup.
Grandal, 30, has played in parts of seven MLB seasons — three with the Padres and four with the Dodgers. 2018 was one of his best seasons offensively; in 140 games (440 at-bats), Grandal delivered a .241/.349/.466 slash line.
Grandal's 24 home runs with 68 RBIs in 2018 are the second-best single-season totals that he has posted in his career (he hit 27 home runs with 72 RBIs in 2016).
Adding Grandal is an immediate upgrade offensively to Milwaukee's catching depth. Combined, Brewers catchers delivered a .237/.294/.363 slash line in 2018, hitting 16 home runs with 52 RBIs. The group was led by 38-year-old Erik Kratz (.236/.280/.355, 203 at-bats) and Manny Piña (.252/.307/.395, 306 at-bats).
Adding Grandal will not come cheap for the Brewers. According to Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports, the catcher will make $18.25 million next season. Only Ryan Braun ($19 million) will make more than Grandal for the Brewers in 2019.
The Brewers adding Grandal is yet another example of NL Central teams improving their rosters while the Cubs stay idle. This offseason has seen the Cardinals add All-Star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt and reliever Andrew Miller as well as the Reds acquiring Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp.
Goldschmidt and Miller certainly will improve the 88-win Cardinals, and the 82-win Pirates are sure to cause problems for divisional foes. Puig and Kemp will not put the 67-win Reds over the top, though, and the Brewers are due for some regression in 2019 after nearly making the World Series.
The Cubs are coming off a 95-win season in which key players (Kris Bryant, Yu Darvish, Brandon Morrow) missed extended time due to injury. The team struggled tremendously at the plate in the second half as well, so there is room for improvement next season.
Still, seeing the rest of the division improve while the Cubs stand by likely isn't an easy pill for fans to swallow. If one thing is certain, it's that the NL Central should be one of baseball's toughest divisions in 2019.