Gang’s all here: Well, with the way the White Sox are spending, maybe not all … (@WhiteSox)
The four-year, $73 million commitment made to the Cuban-born star is the largest outlay in franchise history, but still comes in as a bargain on the surface. High tides raise all boats, and as far as the White Sox are concerned, the organization possesses more cache with the new backstop aboard.
The front office can now continue subsequent free agent discussions with the best catcher in the American League in tow. The 31-year-old was first among big league catchers in OBP (.381), third in wRC+ (121), and second in fWAR (5.2) in 2019. Grandal hit .246/.380/.468 with the Brewers last year, in a career-high 153 games. He posted a .361 wOBA with a stellar .222 ISO as well. Yasmani also hit 28 homers and walked at a 17% clip, totaling 109 on the season.
The decision-makers in the White Sox front office have emphasized the need for left-handed bats this offseason, and the addition of the best free agent fit on the market dramatically advances that cause. The switch-hitter posted a 114 wRC+ and a .350 wOBA vs righties last season. He’s really good from the left side, and provides thump (17 homers in 2019) vs. right-handed pitching. He was even better against lefties, though. While hitting just 11 of his 28 home runs against southpaws, Grandal torched them overall, to the tune of a 138 wRC+ and .386 wOBA.
White Sox hitters struggled to reach base at an adequate clip under Todd Steverson, and more importantly over the course of their rebuild. Grandal is a multiplier in a sense, though, providing a different way to approach plate appearances.
“Last year, I made some strides into getting guys to understand the value to actually getting on base,” Grandal told the media yesterday. “Obviously, the more guys we get on base, the more opportunities we have to score. At the end of the day, if you score, you’re going to win.”
Another perceived change for the White Sox is the value of stolen strikes via pitch framing. Grandal is one of the best in the sport and will eventually be a candidate for the Hall of Frame. He saved 17 framing runs last year, the best mark in baseball. It will be a welcomed change for a White Sox organization that has been bottom-five in pitch framing over the past two seasons.
GM Rick Hahn spoke effusively yesterday about Grandal’s value to the franchise, and even tackled the pitch framing questions on a media conference call: “Obviously, Yasmani is very strong in the framing area, and that’s the huge positive for our pitchers and it’s a good portion of the benefit that he brings. We knew where we ranked last year both externally and internally in terms of our framing metrics. It was an area where we could get better. Again, this call could go on for another 20, 30 minutes in terms of talking about all the positive things that Yasmani brings to the table. Framing is certainly one of them. But it doesn’t stop there.”
Hahn has stated emphatically that the “money will be spent,” and his front office took the first step toward backing that up on Thursday. The White Sox landed a big pretty fish for their roster ,and it’s ideally foreshadowing things to come.
“This is an elite add at a premium position today. And now it’s on to the next one,” Hahn said. That next one could be swayed by the possibility of playing with Grandal instead of taking the leap to sign on with the young talent already in the organization and banking on the already assembled talent core.
While some will remain rightfully skeptical of the club’s business practices, actually getting Grandal to sign on the dotted line shows that the White Sox are serious about winning and winning soon.
“Seeing the direction that the program is going in and talking to them a little bit about what their future plans are and what their goals were, it kind of got to me a little bit,” Grandal said yesterday on his conference call. “Their pitching staff excites me a lot, just because there are a lot of good, young arms that can be great. Hopefully, I can help them out to be the best that they can be. Hopefully, by the end of the four years we made a deep run in the postseason and, God willing, we were able to win a championship.”
It only takes one player to agree to terms and change the fortunes of a moribund squad. Grandal listened to the White Sox’s pitch and then took their money. He provides things they lack: power, on-base ability and left-handedness, in addition to the potential boon the pitching staff will incur. His friendship with Zack Collins and Cuban heritage are both interesting subplots to the signing as well. But most important is what it signals to the rest of the baseball world.
Snickering and snide comments about $73 million being the biggest deal in franchise history glosses over the fact that however small of a hurdle it is, the hurdle was in fact cleared. In an expectantly busy offseason for the club, that number is one that could be shattered again in short order.
As the new backstop did the typical “welcome to town” media rounds on Thursday, radio host Danny Parkins of The Score asked Grandal why he chose the White Sox. The response was a short and sweet: “Why not?”
In the end, money talks, and Grandal found $73 million reasons to relocate to Chicago. While not expected to be the big-market behemoths on par with the Yankees, Dodgers, Cubs and Red Sox, the Pale Hose have more financial might than the flyover cities who inhabit the American League Central.
There’s nothing stopping the Chicago White Sox from becoming the goliath in a division full of financial Davids. This is what a seat at the table truly looks like. The organization identified a true need and went out and landed their top target. For their sake, it’s a playbook that should continue into the future.
Yasmani Grandal makes a salient point. Why not the White Sox?
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