“We’ve been texting back and forth about various guys, both on our roster and available throughout the league,” said Hahn during a Thursday conference call. “[Grandal] really has a deep, deep knowledge of how to maximize a pitcher’s ability.”
Grandal’s commitment to the organization impressed a fan base already in a state of utter euphoria when the White Sox identified and then signed one of their top offseason targets, if not their No. 1 priority. But that excitement and admiration were temporarily replaced by one overriding question:
Who are these off-the-roster names being thrown about by Hahn and Grandal?
Those answers might come sooner than later, with Chicago taking only the first step of an important offseason where the rebuild moves into a planned contending phase supported by continued payroll flexibility. Hahn, sticking to a frame of mind espoused during last week’s General Managers Meetings, wasn’t parsing this signing for what it meant to other free agents.
"Our intention, similar as to what we did with Yas, is to state our case directly and obviously show them that our words are true in terms of what action we intend to take,” Hahn said. “At the end of the day, it comes down to converting on deals.
“So, we can certainly lay out a vision for free-agent players. There certainly is a level of excitement of what we had done even prior to this signing today, but until we actually convert on some of these targets, the words are just that.
“If in fact other free agents see this move today as reinforcement to some of the things they’ve heard from us over the past several weeks or even going back to last year, that’s great. Hopefully there will be further moves over the course of the next several months that will continue that positive narrative.”
Adding Grandal wouldn’t necessarily be considered filling the team’s biggest need based on the voids in right field and on the pitching staff. But Grandal gives the team a highly talented and knowledgeable presence behind the plate, offensively and defensively, and helps build a better overall team by freeing up starts at designated hitter for himself and fellow catchers James McCann and Zack Collins.
Pitching is an essential need for the White Sox, with Hahn referencing bullpen help Thursday along with the rotation changes. Chicago has been linked to free agent Zack Wheeler, a right-hander who pitched five years for the Mets and shut out the South Siders on four hits over seven innings on Aug. 1 at Guaranteed Rate Field.
But even if the White Sox don’t add from the perceived highest shelf pitching-wise, they already took a major step forward through Thursday’s move alone. Remember, this is a team not completely removed from immediate contention despite its 72-89 mark in 2019.
Take away a 4-16 stretch out of the All-Star break, and a run hampered by injuries to Tim Anderson and Eloy Jiménez, and this was a team playing around .500 for much of the season. Outfielder Luis Robert and second baseman Nick Madrigal will be joining a 2020 roster featuring Anderson, Jiménez, Yoán Moncada, José Abreu, Lucas Giolito and Dylan Cease, to name a few.
“Even if you just look at the team and the core, there’s a lot of young talent,” Grandal said during his Thursday conference call. “The way that I looked at it, this team could be a dark horse in the next year or so.”
Thursday’s move was a declaration of contention beyond the strong in-house options, although Hahn left that sort of interpretation to the media.
“Our focus should just be on making this team better,” Hahn said. “We've said all along that the fans have been absolutely outstanding in terms of their support throughout this rebuild, and there's a level of excitement about not only next year, but the next several years.
“The Grandal addition should only reinforce that and make people feel even more excited about what's coming together here. At the same time, we know we have more work to do. I can say it sends this type of message out there, and it's, frankly, going to ring hollow if we don't reinforce that with further acquisitions.”