There is no need to bury a lede here: The Chicago White Sox did the damn thing and signed Yasmani Grandal to a 4-year, $73-million deal. I don’t need to tell you this, but it’s obviously a monumental deal for the White Sox in so many ways, and we will get to them all.
Quite frankly, this is a move that I thought made so much sense and was so damn obvious to make, that in reality the Sox would end up balking at it and taking option B or C and ending up with Jason Castro or something of the ilk. I was also nervous that the White Sox were going to think that they ultimately caught lightning in a bottle with James McCann and just ride with him. Instead, Rich Hahn & Co. went out and targeted this guy who is one of the two best catchers in the game, made perfect sense for their roster and pitching staff, and they prioritized signing him and did so early. I almost can’t believe that as I write it.
Let’s talk about all of the ways this is so big, starting with the most important part – on the field. Here are all of the stats that Yasmani Grandal would have been among the top 5 Sox players last season: walks, walk rate, OBP, slugging, OPS, wRC+, fWAR, ISO, wOBA. I could probably keep going, but you get my point. Most of those stats he would have been a top-3 player on the roster and some of them he would’ve led the team. He has been the 12th most valuable player in baseball by fWAR since 2015. Apropos of nothing, he is one slot higher than Manny Machado in those rankings.
Moreover, short of signing Gerrit Cole and/or Anthony Rendon, which we knew was never realistic, signing Grandal is the one move they could’ve made that would help them the most on the field. This guy is one of the best hitting catchers in baseball and his framing ability is one of the best in the game as well, no matter what his 2018 playoff struggles with receiving might trick you into believing. He’s a switch-hitting catcher, high-OBP catcher who brings power and can play 1B or DH as well. He had the 19th highest fWAR among MLB hitters in 2019. He is a stud, and he is a White Sox.
That framing and defense is also going to be near invaluable to this young White Sox pitching staff. Last year James McCann was the worst framing catcher in the American League. So the Sox just went from worst to best in an instant. Moreover, for all of their strengths and lethal stuff, the biggest concern about some of the Sox’ young high-ceiling arms like Michael Kopech and Dylan Cease is lack of control. Now they have one of the premier defensive catchers behind the plate that will help them out if they can keep it close. It also presents as a very attractive shiny toy for any prospective free agent pitchers like Zach Wheeler, who the Sox are also rumored to be interested in.
Riffing off of that last point, the other big aspect of this trade is the splash. The White Sox just signed one of the best players in baseball to a big contract – the biggest in franchise history. They did it on November 21 rather than waiting it out. They were aggressive. They’re showing other teams and other free agents that they are absolutely intent on competing moving forward, and they are to be taken seriously. And the fact that Grandal is one of the best players in baseball and was willing to take their money and buy into their vision, while complimenting their professionalism and process (which might just be typical new signing lip service, but it still could be valuable) lends a lot of legitimacy to this franchise. Other free agents might be looking at the prospect of playing at 3th and Shields a little differently now.
There are a few questions to be asked about what this means moving forward for James McCann and Zach Collins, but I don’t think it’s that complicated. McCann fits best as a backup and platoon type anyway given that he rakes lefties but looks like he is using an actual rake as a bat against righties. Collins was never going to stick behind the plate anyway, and can now move to being a full-time DH considering his best position is hitter, or you can use him as a trade chip for a pitcher (might I suggest one Jon Gray). Use McCann to spell Grandal behind the plate against lefties and let Grandal play first. I think overall, Grandal as your everyday catcher with McCann as backup and Collins as potential fill in is an ideal scenario.
Overall, this is a huge move. I have been saying for months that Grandal would be my number one priority if I was Rick Hahn, and it turned out that Rick agreed with me. AJ talked about this a few weeks ago as well, though he overshot the contract by a lot because he thought the Sox would have to extra-overpay. But in the end, this is a guy that most Sox fans wanted and should have wanted, and in the end the Sox went and got him. They did the damn thing. It’s a good day.
Don’t stop now, boys.