BOOM goes the offseason: The White Sox got free agency off to a stirring start by snatching No. 1 target Yasmani Grandal. (@MLB)
They did it; they actually signed a known good player!
The White Sox signed Yasmani Grandal to a four-year, $73 million deal. That is the biggest contract given out by the team in franchise history (maybe not, when taking into consideration inflation — but somebody smarter can calculate that). Grandal will start at catcher, with James McCann as a very capable backup.
Since 2015, Grandal has been one of the best catchers in baseball. Among catchers in that time span, he has the most fWAR (24.9) and the second-best wRC+ (117) only behind Yankees slugger Gary Sanchez. In using FanGraphs’ framing metric, Grandal is the best in baseball, while old pal Tyler Flowers is second.
In short, Grandal has been and expects to be an elite offensive and defensive catcher for the White Sox in the 2020 season and beyond.
The impact Grandal will have going forward is great not only for the lineup, but with the young starting rotation and bullpen. As long as there is not an automated strike zone, framing will continue to be important. Grandal’s abilities behind the plate should help Lucas Giolito continue to improve and Reynaldo López rediscover his 2018 season/highly-touted prospect status. Grandal should also help the younger pitchers without much MLB experience like Michael Kopech reach their potential more quickly than Giolito and Lopez. Basically, the pitching side should benefit greatly from this signing.
This signing also has some roster ramifications. Daniel Palka was DFA’ed, and it would not be surprising if he was picked up by another team in the beginning stages of a rebuild.
Right now, the Sox have five catchers on the 40-man roster (Grandal, McCann, Seby Zavala, Zack Collins, and Yermín Mercedes). Last season, it appeared Zack Collins got a cup of coffee on the South Side partly because the organization wanted him to learn first base. This move could mean a more permanent move to first for Collins, or it can also signal that he is now trade bait to help fill other holes. Having good depth at catcher is nothing to sneeze at and Sox fans should be very aware of this by now, but let’s be honest, Collins and Mercedes are below-average at best as defensive catchers and are huge downgrades compared to Grandal. So, position changes for good-bat, weak-glove catchers would not be the end of the world.
Now, because the Sox also do not have that many impact bats (hopefully they will soon), having a kind of third catcher like Zavala, Collins, or Mercedes could come into play as MLB institutes a 26-man active roster in 2020. Multiple times last season McCann was in the lineup as a DH, and that could be his “starting” position if the Sox do not add another bat and one of Collins, Zavala, or Mercedes are the third-string catcher and backup DH.
Collins, for his part, was excited to welcome Grandal aboard, telling SSHP’s Clint Cole, “I already spoke to [Grandal] … obviously we are pretty excited. I’ve been working out with him since I was 15 or 16. It should be awesome for us. He just told me to get ready to work, so it should be fun.”
It is November, the season is still far away, and the ramifications of this deal are still not yet realized. But it is fun to speculate, because the Sox actually signed a good player.
Now, go sign more.