The White Sox have signed free-agent catcher Yasmani Grandal to a four-year, $73 million contract, the team announced Thursday morning:
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
Grandal receives a full no-trade clause for 2020 and limited no-trade protection over the latter three years of the deal, per The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal:
Grandal, in his four-year, $73M free-agent deal with the #WhiteSox, gets full no-trade protection next season and limited no-trade protection from 2021-23.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) November 21, 2019
Grandal was the best catcher on the market — and one of the best players out there overall, really — this offseason. His contract is the largest in franchise history, so it’s pretty clear that the White Sox mean business with this move and are ready to make a serious push in a downtrodden AL Central. With guys like Tim Anderson, Yoan Moncada, and Lucas Giolito — who were supposed to be central figures in their rebuilds but got off to slow starts in the majors — finally living up to their potential in 2019, it makes sense for the White Sox to start taking those final steps in their return to competitiveness.
The 31-year-old Grandal is a switch-hitter and a two-time All-Star. He’s a career .241/.348/.446 hitter, and he slightly outperformed those numbers during his lone season with the Brewers in 2019, posting a .246/.380/.468 line with a career-high 28 homers in 632 plate appearances. While he obviously has weaknesses on defense (remember the 2018 NLCS?), the defensive metrics actually treat him quite favorably. With 17.0 framing runs, he was ranked as the second-best pitch-framer in the majors (behind only Austin Hedges) by FanGraphs’ framing metric this past season. However, he ranked third-worst (-5 runs) among major-league catchers in rCERA, a metric that attempts to quantify how well a catcher handles a pitching staff.
The White Sox are actually coming off a season where their catcher performed quite well — 29-year-old James McCann posted a career-high 109 OPS+, hitting .273/.328/.460 with 18 homers in 476 PAs while collecting five defensive runs saved — so it’ll be interesting to see what they do with their incumbent backstop. It certainly wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world for them to keep him around as an overqualified backup, but with the severe shortage of good catchers around the league, it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see Chicago trade McCann to a team where he can start and pick up more of a true backup type to handle the 40 or so games that Grandal will need off.
To make room on the White Sox’s roster, outfielder Daniel Palka — who hit 27 homers with a .778 OPS as a rookie before having a historically bad 9-for-93 season in 2019 — was designated for assignment. Though teams’ 40-man rosters are full right now after Wednesday’s deadline to protect players from the Rule 5 Draft, it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see another team take a chance on fixing Palka by claiming him on waivers.