CHICAGO – There was no need for White Sox general manager Rick Hahn to present his list of offseason priorities during a Thursday conference call announcing the signing of free-agent catcher Yasmani Grandal.
Not when the White Sox have more to do over the coming weeks and months.
But suffice to say adding a premium player such as Grandal at a premium position via a four-year, $73 million deal -- the largest contract in franchise history -- sat near the top of those goals as the rebuilding White Sox move into a planned contention phase.
“Yasmani was absolutely toward the top of our list in terms of offseason priorities,” Hahn said. “Obviously he was someone we acted on quickly.”
“[Grandal is] such a quality guy,” executive vice president Ken Williams said at the Owners Meetings in Arlington, according to ESPN's Jeff Passan. “And for him to understand our messaging, our goals, our path and to say, 'I want to be a part of that and I'm going to commit to it early,' so we can move on to the next thing heading into the Winter Meetings, just shows what kind of character we're talking about.”
Under terms of the agreement, Grandal will receive $18.25 million per year from 2020-23. The White Sox were in contact with Grandal’s representative as soon as they were allowed after the World Series concluded, and they actually met with Grandal in Arizona during last week’s General Managers Meetings.
Two days after that meeting, by Hahn’s memory, Grandal had reached out for video of each of the White Sox starters.
“Everything we learned from that meeting reinforced what we had learned about [Grandal] from afar and through various sources,” Hahn said. “Not only is he an outstanding contributor based on what you guys have all seen between the lines, but he’s a tireless worker, a great preparer, a great game-planner and someone who is going to fit in very well in our clubhouse.”
“I don't care where I'm going as long as I see a future in the pitching staff,” Grandal said during Thursday’s conference call. “If I see that I can help that pitching staff, for me that's pretty much No. 1. So, their sales pitch was: Look at the young arms we have, look at the guys we have coming up. We have an opportunity here to win, and we think you can help them out.”
The White Sox had interest in Grandal last offseason, but he went to the Brewers via a one-year deal and was named a National League All-Star. The 31-year-old switch-hitter slashed .246/.380/.468 with 28 home runs, 77 RBIs, 26 doubles and 109 walks.
Grandal’s on-base potential immediately enhances a team that ranked 23rd overall in OBP last season. His 101 combined home runs over the past four seasons ranks second among catchers behind Gary Sánchez (105). Grandal and Sánchez are the only catchers with 100-plus homers in that span, with Salvador Perez ranked third with 76. Grandal's 275 RBIs in that span rates most among catchers, and he has played 548 games in that span -- tied with J.T. Realmuto for most among catchers.
But Grandal’s value goes well beyond his offensive numbers.
He was tied for second-most Runs Extra Strikes from framing in 2019 among qualified catchers, at +13. James McCann, the White Sox primary catcher in ’19, was -16, the lowest mark among qualified catchers.
McCann was an All-Star last season and earned rave reviews for his game preparation and from fellow All-Star Lucas Giolito during his breakout campaign. With Zack Collins and Yermin Mercedes also in the mix, the White Sox have options not only at catcher but to move between designated hitter and even first base where Grandal or Collins can spell José Abreu.
“Having too many guys who are quality big leaguers is a good thing, not something we view as a problem,” said Hahn, who called McCann on Thursday to lay out the catching plan moving forward. “We want to provide [manager] Rick [Renteria] with enough flexibility and different options to set a quality lineup each day.”
To make room for Grandal on the 40-man roster, the White Sox designated outfielder Daniel Palka for assignment. This move marked another step in an overarching plan beginning with Chris Sale's trade to Boston in 2016, bringing back Yoan Moncáda and Michael Kopech, and a plan intended to not only have the White Sox in contention by ’20 but for five or six years afterward, as well.
In this instance, Chicago set its sights on a top priority to enhance the plan and found a player who immediately understood its value.
“Quite frankly, unlike last year around this time when the market was kind of completely non-existent, this year, it was slightly different,” Grandal said. “It seemed like there were several teams that were working hard within their limits to be able to compete and there were thorough teams that were really interested.
“The one team that kind of stood out the most for me was the White Sox. I loved their professionalism, their preparation, and the direction of the program. At the end of the day, they were able to get the equity, and that's where we needed to be at to get it done. That, to me, it just showed me that they really wanted me, and they wanted me to be a part of the future in Chicago. That's one of the reasons why we decided to sign.”