Shock is an understatement.
But the White Sox seized the offseason by the horns with a sweeping, stunning, four-year, $73 million contract with free agent catcher Yasmani Grandal on Thursday.
OFFICIAL: The #WhiteSox have agreed to terms on a four-year, $73-million contract with free agent All-Star catcher Yasmani Grandal (@YazmanianDVL08). Under terms of the agreement, Grandal will receive $18.25 million per year from 2020-2023. pic.twitter.com/dczzZo8UTE— Chicago White Sox (@whitesox) November 21, 2019
Per Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, Grandal has full no-trade protection in 2020 and limited no-trade protection from 2021-23.
In a Thursday conference call, Grandal was clearly excited: “My family and I are very excited and honored to be a part of the Chicago White Sox organization. I loved their professionalism, preparation and vision towards the future. I want to thank them for allowing me to be a part of this process moving forward.”
In addition to noting that he and Grandal had already been texting back and forth about various White Sox players and available free agents, Hahn was ebullient in an afternoon press conference: “Yasmani ranks among the very elite catchers in major league baseball today, and we are extremely happy to add a durable and talented player of his caliber to our lineup.”
Daniel Palka was designated for assignment to make room for Grandal on the roster, and that most assuredly means he will be claimed on waivers. In the words of South Side Hit Pen writer Leonard Gore:
Palkamania died so #Yasmani could live. https://t.co/eGxFiHztb1— McCannonBaller (@Leonard42) November 21, 2019
While Grandal’s value varies in a WAR sense, with catcher measurements more volatile than any other position, both fWAR and WARP value our new catcher off the charts. (Over the past five years, Grandal’s 24.9 fWAR tops all catchers.) And offensively, as a switch-hitter, the White Sox knock another target off the fence with the signing: additional left-handed power.
Grandal’s combination of potent bat, framing, and experience handling and improving ascendant pitchers makes him an ideal fit for the South Side.
While this was a move you expected the White Sox to make a year ago, with young staff arms crying out for guidance and leadership, Rick Hahn steered the Sox into a one-year fix with James McCann, who mostly represented a lot of what we can hope for from Grandal. But rather than sit back and cross fingers that McCann’s offense would pick back up and framing would improve, Hahn relegated a 2018 All-Star to a backup or trade bait role, while striking hard for a known quantity in Grandal.
The value of having a steady, experienced hand behind the plate guiding a staff still learning — as well as having the experience to segue in a veteran arm or two, as the White Sox are expected to spend to bolster the rotation — is immeasurable. The White Sox are finally paying serious attention to the most important position on the field.
The move also alleviates pressure on the good-bat, no-field catchers on the roster, like Zack Collins and Yermín Mercedes. Either player could see DH time for the White Sox in 2020, or begin to hone skills at first base. More likely, at least one player becomes a chip used to acquire other talent, as the White Sox are growing into a more dynamic team, where hitters might be expected to both slug and field, not one or the other. And in the case of significant movement, the White Sox have Seby Zavala in their back pocket as a third catcher and possible backup in 2021 when McCann leaves via free agency.
Collins welcomed Grandal to the White Sox, 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.”
As a final note, we all can get frustrated with this team we love, and the nature of sports is to moan and wail (unless you win it all, in which case, celebrate to excess!). So I’ll just leave this as an end note:
We (I) spend a lot of time criticizing the White Sox, while ALWAYS wanting things to be better.— Brett Ballantini (@BrettBallantini) November 21, 2019
This Yasmani signing is better than perfect.
$18 million a year for this guy is a sneeze.
Way to bring the THUNDER early, White Sox!