Of the big disappointments the Brewers had this year, Omar Narvaez might have been the biggest. Guys like Justin Smoak and Brock Holt may have struggled, but they didn’t have the expectations that Narvaez had coming into this season.
After four seasons in the AL, where Narvaez thrived with a .276/.361/.411 slash line and a 111 OPS+, he struggled immediately after coming to the Brewers.
In 40 games, his slash line plummeted to .176/.294/.269 with a 53 OPS+. After hitting 22 home runs last year, he was down to just two long balls in 2020.
This is what Stearns had to say about Narvaez and the catching position.
In GM-speak, this is code for “I’m going to look for something better and hopefully I can find it”. If Narvaez returns for 2021 and isn’t DFA’ed or traded after his miserable, albeit only 40 game, season, then that’s most likely because Stearns couldn’t find an upgrade for a decent price.
Narvaez has a history of being a solid hitter at the plate, consistently hitting above .270 over full seasons. But even in just a quarter of a regular season, there was nothing from Narvaez that even looked close to that kind of hitter. There wasn’t even two or three day spurts where he looked like his 2017-19 self at the plate.
At least with guys like Christian Yelich and Keston Hiura they had games where they looked like their normal selves. Narvaez never got there. We can talk about small sample sizes and the oddities of the season all we want, but the bottom line is Narvaez’s job is not secure heading into 2021.
Jacob Nottingham played well defensively, but was just as bad on offense as Narvaez was. The only catcher who hit well this year was Pina, and he’s likely to return next year, but will the Brewers give him the starting job?
One potential free agent option is James McCann of the White Sox. With Yasmani Grandal now signed there for the next several years, McCann is a free agent this winter with no starting job awaiting him with his current team. He’s performed well offensively the past two years and is just 30 years old.
J.T. Realmuto is also a free agent this winter but he’s at the top of the market and most of the teams chasing a catcher will be after him. That could allow the Brewers to sneak in some more time with McCann and sign him while everyone is distracted by Realmuto.