Chicago White Sox sign Yasmani Grandal to 4-year, $73M contract
The Chicago White Sox signed a player Thursday, a really good player.
They also signed off on one of the most miserable periods in franchise history.
Following the 2016 season, the Sox traded ace starter Chris Sale and veteran outfielder Adam Eaton for prospects, launching the first rebuild since chairman Jerry Reinsdorf assumed control of the franchise in 1981.
The decision to tear it down and build back up came after a fourth straight losing season marred by underachieving performances from highly paid veterans and abysmal clubhouse chemistry.
What followed was three more losing seasons -- lowlighted by a 100-loss effort in 2018 -- but the White Sox stayed patient.
"We've paid our dues for the last three years," general manager Rick Hahn said at the end of last season, which marked the 11th straight year of the Sox missing the playoffs.
"These things tend to take longer than three years, so we are not out of the woods yet. But we are ready for that next stage when we get much closer to competitiveness to start ramping up here in the next weeks and months into next season."
The White Sox ramped way up Thursday, signing free-agent catcher Yasmani Grandal to a four-year, $73 million contract. The deal is the largest in franchise history, and Grandal will be paid $18.25 million per year from 2020-2023.
A switch hitter, the 31-year-old Grandal batted .246/.380/.468 with Milwaukee last season. He reached career highs with 28 home runs, 77 RBI, 79 runs scored and 109 walks in 153 games with the Brewers.
He also was named to the all-star team for the second time in his career.
"Obviously, an exciting day for us around here," Hahn said. "This is an elite add at a premium position."
Grandal met with Hahn and other members of the White Sox last week during the GM meetings in Phoenix.
The free-agent market has been dragging the last few years, but Grandal likes where the Sox are sitting and quickly signed on.
"I mean, just 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 are, it kind of got to me a little bit," Grandal said on a conference call Thursday. "I started thinking about it, seeing exactly what they had. 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."
That has been the goal since the rebuild began, and adding a player such as Grandal moves the Sox closer to making it a reality. Hahn knows much more outside help is still needed.
Even with the expensive signing, the White Sox's 2020 projected payroll is still under $90 million. They have plenty of additional money to spend.
"We've said all along that the fans have been absolutely outstanding in terms of their support throughout this rebuild, and I think there's a level of excitement about not only next year but the next several years," Hahn said. "And I think the Grandal addition should only reinforce that and make people feel even more excited about what's coming together here.
"I can say it sends that type of message out there, and it's frankly going to ring hollow if we don't reinforce that with further acquisitions. We know we have more work to do."
The White Sox are off to a solid start with Grandal, for multiple reasons.
First, he brings needed power from the left side.
Over his eight-year career with the San Diego Padres (2012-14), Los Angeles Dodgers (2015-18) and Brewers (2019), the 6-foot-1, 235-pounder has slashed .242/.344/.456 with 114 home runs and 328 RBI as a left-handed hitter and .237/.362/.414 with 27 homers and 88 RBI as a right-hander.
The Sox ranked last in the majors with 378 walks last season, a big reason hitting coach Todd Steverson lost his job.
Grandal finished fourth in baseball with 109 walks, and his .380 on-base percentage ranked No. 17 overall.
Grandal also is an upgrade defensively. Last season, he ranked second in baseball in pitch framing, according to Baseball Prospectus.
"For me it's very simple," said Grandal, who has a career 3.67 catchers ERA. "You just catch the ball the right way and present it to the umpire. You let him make the call and if it goes your way, great. If not, I guess you've just go to make a better pitch."
The White Sox were seemingly set at catcher with all-star James McCann and former first-round draft pick Zack Collins.
With rosters set to expand from 25 to 26 next season, the Sox could easily keep all three, especially if the left-handed Collins grows into his power potential as a designated hitter.
"The way we envision things as we sit here today is that having multiple quality players at premium positions is a good thing," Hahn said. "I spoke to James this morning so he would hear it directly from me what the plan is, and Yasmani provides us with some flexibility.
"While he certainly is a tremendous asset behind the plate and I expect him to spend a lot of his time there, he does provide us with flexibility to have that bat in the lineup at DH and at first base."