White Sox and catcher Yasmani Grandal agree on $73 million deal, biggest contract in team history

The White Sox made a significant early strike toward upgrading their roster for 2020 and beyond, agreeing to terms on a four-year, $73 million contract with free-agent All-Star catcher Yasmani Grandal.

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Milwaukee Brewers’ Yasmani Grandal smiles in the dugout after hitting a solo home run during the eighth inning of a baseball game against the Chicago Cubs, Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash)

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The White Sox made a significant early strike toward building a contending roster for 2020 and beyond Thursday, agreeing to terms on a four-year, $73 million contract with free-agent All-Star catcher Yasmani Grandal.

Grandal, 31, will receive $18.25 million per year from 2020 to 2023 thanks to the richest contract in Sox history. But will it be that by the time spring training rolls around?

“This is an elite add at a premium position today,” general manager Rick Hahn said. “That’s a real good thing. And now it’s on to the next one.

“We have more work to do.”

The next one could be a right fielder, a designated hitter or a starting pitcher, including one, right-hander Zack Wheeler, who could cost even more than Grandal, a highly rated pitch-framer who batted .246/.380/.468 with career highs of 28 home runs, 77 RBI, 79 runs and 109 walks in 153 games with the Brewers in 2019. Grandal was named to his second National League All-Star team and was, according to FanGraphs’ wins above replacement, ranked as the second-best catcher in baseball behind J.T. Realmuto.

Grandal leads all major-league catchers with 117 home runs since 2015. A switch hitter who balances a right-handed-heavy lineup and gives it more needed on-base oomph, he ranked fourth in the majors last season with those 109 walks (Yolmer Sanchez led the Sox with 44 on a team that ranked last and was 11th in on-base percentage) and was among the catching leaders in on-base percentage (first), games (first), extra-base hits (second, 56), total bases (second, 240), RBI (tied for second), homers (third) and slugging (third).

Grandal looks like money well spent by a franchise that has money to spend after stashing it away during the first three years of a rebuild.

“Yasmani ranks among the very elite catchers in the game today,” Hahn said. “His selectivity at the plate is a real plus offensively, and as a switch hitter, his combination of power and on-base percentage stands out. Yasmani’s defensive abilities, pitch-framing and other advanced catching metrics also separate him from others in the game.”

The Sox also have All-Star catcher James McCann, a right-handed hitter, under contract control through 2020. Depending on whom they add this offseason, Grandal and McCann might also be used as designated hitters.

“Having too many quality big-leaguers is a good thing,” Hahn said.

Grandal, who met with Hahn, vice president Ken Williams, assistant general manager Jeremy Haber and manager Rick Renteria during the GM Meetings in Arizona last week, is known as a tireless worker. He requested video last Thursday of the Sox’ young starting pitchers to see what he’d be working with.

“Their pitching staff excites me a lot just because there are a lot of good, young arms that can be great,” he said, naming Lucas Giolito, Michael Kopech, Dylan Cease, Reynaldo Lopez and Carlos Rodon.

After a disappointing offseason a year ago, the Sox moved swiftly and aggressively to convert on Grandal, who also was pursued by the Reds, Angels and Blue Jays.

“My family and I are very excited and honored to be a part of the Chicago White Sox organization,” he said. “I loved their professionalism, preparation and vision toward the future.”

At the Owners Meetings in Arlington, Texas, Williams told ESPN’s Jeff Passan, “This was all planned, going back five years ago when we started this and started thinking about this. We’d get ourselves in position with our young core and augment it with guys like this. Clearly we’re trying to put ourselves in a window that could start next year and extend to the next five to seven years.”

To make room for Grandal on the 40-man roster, the Sox designated outfielder Daniel Palka for assignment. After leading the Sox in homers as a rookie in 2018, Palka continued to struggle defensively while batting .107 with two homers in 30 games in 2019.

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