Gonzales: Now's the time for White Sox to make a bold move or two

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • White Sox catcher Yasmani Grandal belts a three-run homer against Minnesota in June at Guaranteed Rate Field.

    White Sox catcher Yasmani Grandal belts a three-run homer against Minnesota in June at Guaranteed Rate Field. Associated Press

  • San Francisco's Curt Casali -- here making a catch in foul territory in a September game -- would be an option as a backup catcher for the White Sox.

    San Francisco's Curt Casali -- here making a catch in foul territory in a September game -- would be an option as a backup catcher for the White Sox. Associated Press

 
Updated 10/22/2021 5:43 PM

Yasmani Grandal might have addressed one issue about his defense as he posted a photograph of his heavily wrapped right knee following surgery, performed one week after the White Sox's convincing elimination from the American League playoffs.

The surgery was the latest in a series of health issues regarding Grandal, who has two years and $36.5 million remaining.

 

Given that Grandal twisted his right knee in February, then tore a tendon in his left knee in July that sidelined him for 1½ months, he should be cut some slack regarding his struggles with blocking pitches late in the season.

Grandal turns 33 next month, and expecting him to catch at least 110 games presents a challenge because of his age and the mileage on his repaired knee.

This is one of several reasons why the White Sox should aim high in their push to win a World Series as they did in their two previous winters when they acquired Lance Lynn, Liam Hendriks, Dallas Keuchel, Craig Kimbrel and Grandal through free agency and trades.

Colleague Scot Gregor listed free agent Marcus Semien as a potential fit at second base, which would fortify an already-formidable lineup. Semien possesses a remarkable work ethic, as evidenced by his duties with former Athletics coach Ron Washington that improved his Fielding Runs Above Average at shortstop from minus-6 (with 35 errors) in 2014 to plus-7 in 2018.

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Last season, Semien had a plus-18 in Fielding Runs Above Average at second with the Blue Jays. Based on his run production and ability to defend well at shortstop and second, Semien could command one of the largest contracts this winter.

The Sox are well below the luxury tax threshold, but they do have some salary/performance concerns tied to embattled left-hander Keuchel and reliever Kimbrel and pondering whether to re-sign left-hander Carlos Rodon.

Acquiring a top-notch player at a position of need would take pressure off outfielders Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert, who each were limited in 2021 due to injuries.

Meanwhile, the poor defense at second base and right field remains too glaring to ignore. And grounding into 139 double plays -- second highest in the AL -- requires attention.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Manager Tony La Russa and his staff are well past the get-to-know-you stage, so you can be assured the shortcomings will be addressed thoroughly in spring training.

If it weren't for the length of Grandal's contract, Willson Contreras would provide a fit with his fearless defense, his power and relentless desire that would douse any complacency that persisted among a few of his Cubs teammates.

The Cubs and White Sox have completed trades before, but any deal involving Contreras, 29, likely would be contingent upon him being signed to an extension before he's eligible for free agency after 2022.

If Buster Posey re-signs with the Giants, the White Sox would be wise to inquire about veteran backup catcher Curt Casali, a solid defender who caught 64 games (55 starts) in 2021.

The White Sox can't overlook the value of a strong receiver who can block pitches consistently, give pitchers the confidence to throw their breaking pitches in all counts with a runner at third while still imploring them to hold runners at first base more carefully.

They were able to retain youngsters Andrew Vaughn and Gavin Sheets beyond the July trade deadline, and their roles could expand in 2022, at least as right fielders. Sheets' left-handed bat provides much needed balance to a right-hand dominant lineup.

If Nick Castellanos opts out of his contract with the Reds, the Sox should give serious thought to pursuing him as a right fielder/designated hitter.

The White Sox have zoomed past the development mode, but it wouldn't hurt to give Vaughn an extended look at second base if they can't find an upgrade over Cesar Hernandez or Leury Garcia. La Russa took quick peeks at Vaughn at second and third base last season.

Vaughn won't be confused with five-time All-Star Jeff Kent. But he has the work ethic to turn into an adequate defender if asked to play second.

In the meantime, Sheets could be part of a platoon in right field. One of La Russa's best traits is maximizing the talents of his bench players, Sheets could get more playing time without being exposed against selected left-handers.

These moves would attract more scrutiny. But that comes with being a World Series contender.

@MDGonzales

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