Catcher Yasmani Grandal has now been the top backstop available on the open market in back-to-back offseasons. But this winter’s trip to free agency turned out drastically different for Grandal than last year’s. Coming off a prosperous run with the Dodgers an offseason ago, Grandal turned down a four-year, $60MM offer from the Mets before signing a one-year, $18.25MM guarantee with the Brewers. Grandal’s Milwaukee pact was barely more than the qualifying offer he rejected from the Dodgers, but it did give the 31-year-old the opportunity to make a substantial amount for a single season and once again make a case for a lucrative long-term deal. A year later, it seems fair to say things worked out well for the switch-hitting Grandal.
In his lone season as a Brewer, Grandal showed yet again that he’s one of the most well-rounded catchers in baseball. He earned the second All-Star nod of his career, racked up 5.2 fWAR, slashed .246/.380/.468 with a career-high 28 home runs in 632 plate appearances, and ranked near the top of the league as a pitch framer. While Grandal’s stellar 2019 output wasn’t much different than his 2018 production, he wasn’t going to settle for another one-year deal this time.
Grandal officially departed Milwaukee on Thursday to become the highest-paid player in the history of the White Sox, who signed him to a four-year, $73MM deal with full no-trade protection in 2020 and a partial NTC thereafter. It’s an undeniably bold strike by Chicago, which hasn’t finished with a .500 or better record since 2012 and hasn’t clinched a playoff spot since 2008. However, the White Sox are aiming to wrap up a multiyear rebuild and put themselves back on the map in the AL Central division, where they’re wedged between two contenders (the Twins and Indians) and a pair of noncompetitive clubs (the Royals and Tigers).
The Grandal signing figures to help the White Sox move closer to relevance in 2020, as he’s a clear upgrade over their No. 1 catcher from last season, James McCann. Of course, as is the case with all big-money acquisitions, there’s risk involved – especially when talking about a 30-something catcher. To Grandal’s credit, though, he has been eminently durable and extraordinarily consistent to this point. And Grandal’s bat is so sturdy that it should work just fine at designated hitter, where he’ll be able to play on occasion to partially save himself from the wear and tear of catching. If there’s another reason to like this move for Chicago, it’s that the club didn’t give up any draft compensation for Grandal, who was ineligible to receive a QO.
In your opinion, did the White Sox make a wise move in handing Grandal a franchise-record payday? (Poll link for app users)