Do Padres have a Nick Hundley-Yasmani Grandal quandary?
After the San Diego Padres received word that Yasmani Grandal was popped for PED use and would serve a 50-game suspension to start the 2013 season, it looked to be a huge blow to the offense because Grandal flourished last year and was promoted after Nick Hundley‘s knee injuries and a miserable start.
Last year, Grandal batted .297/.394/.469 with eight home runs, six doubles and 36 RBIs in 192 at-bats over 60 games. Nick Hundley batted .157/.219/.245 with three home runs and 22 RBIs in 204 at-bats over 58 games (204). In March of 2012, Hundley and the Padres agreed to a three-year extension through 2014 due to his vastly improved second half surge in 2011, where Hundley hit .367/.404/.656 with six home runs, 14 RBIs in 37 games after the All-Star break, while earning the respect of the pitching and coaching staff while working tirelessly on his defensive game. Hundley’s extension, paid the now veteran back-stop $2MM in 2012, a reasonable $3MM this year and $4MM next year in 2014.
This year, Nick Hundley is seemingly healthy and off to a monster start batting .329/.357/.544 with three home runs and 11 RBI. He leads the Padres in doubles with eight (two off the NL League leader at 10).
That begs the question: What happens when Grandal comes off suspension if Nick Hundley is still producing at a high caliber? You could look to sell high on Nick while he is hot and hope Grandal comes back and doesn’t skip a a beat. Although, then you’re relying on a catcher pegged with questionable character along with how his body will react to playing clean baseball. Having said that, I am a big believer in Grandal, and do believe he is a good kid who simply made a mistake, but he also needs to prove that this will never happen again. The Padres will not just slide the lineup card over to Grandal upon his return and slot him in the number-five hole, where he batted in the majority of time last year. The Padres would also not be wise to sell extremely low on Grandal now if they have fallen out of favor with him because of the PED incident.
Assuming Grandal does eventually take over, Hundley becomes a $3MM reserve. But, catchers don’t play every day, and having two capable catchers gives you the ability to keep both fresh. National League teams are now playing a few more DH games each year, and that means the Padres have an opportunity to get both players in the lineup. There’s plenty of time to see if Nick Hundley sustains his production and whether or not Grandal hits like he did last year as we approach the trade deadline.
Either one could be a hot commodity, or it might make sense to keep both. I still don’t see any dilemma here. It’s a win-win situation that needs to be played out. This is a good “problem” to have.