Thank you, thank you, thank you to the White Sox for taking us away, however momentarily, from Chicago’s sports darkness.
When they agreed to a contract with All-Star catcher Yasmani Grandal on Thursday, the clouds lifted, the sun seemed to wink at us and Mitch Trubisky briefly was reduced to a dull ache in our side rather than the usual burst appendix.
We forgot the Bears’ troubles, the Bulls’ shaky rebuild, the Blackhawks’ so-so-ness and the Cubs’ brutal September.
So, thank you, Sox general manager Rick Hahn, for adding Grandal.
And now? More, please.
More big signings. More money thrown around like rice at a wedding. More reason to believe.
Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon would be more than enough.
As Hahn said, correctly, after the Grandal news broke, “Now it’s on to the next one.’’ The Sox aren’t as into advertising slogans as former Cubs manager Joe “Mad Men” Maddon was, but maybe they should follow his lead.
Now it’s on to the next signing.
Now it’s on to the most meaningful step in the rebuild.
Now it’s on to the next playoff berth, which would be the first since 2008, when George Washington was president.
Now it’s on to Rendon, who hit .319 last season and led the majors with 126 RBI.
You might be wondering how the Sox could possibly have room on their payroll for Rendon after devoting a combined $123 million to Grandal (four years, $73 million) and first baseman Jose Abreu, who agreed to a three-year, $50 million contract Friday. That’s the old way of looking at things. The new way is to say that if the Sox want this rebuild to get them to the stated goal of a World Series, they have to figure out a way to add Rendon. It’s the kind of bold move a championship team makes.
You are correct: Jerry Reinsdorf is still the Sox’ chairman.
But the energetic losing of the last seven seasons makes no sense if the team doesn’t dramatically raise its payroll as the light at the end of the tunnel grows. Surely even the cautious Reinsdorf sees this.
What stands out about Grandal’s deal is that it’s the richest in Sox history. As in ever. No, really. If that doesn’t seem like a whole lot of money by baseball standards, it’s because it’s not. In 2019, 34 players made $20 million or more.
The Sox whiffed on signing Manny Machado last season, but they showed (sort of) that they were willing to shell out big bucks as their rebuild started to turn the corner. Machado turned down their eight-year, $250 million offer to sign with San Diego, in part because the Sox didn’t offer as much guaranteed money as the Padres did.
What the Sox offered Machado is likely what it will take to land Rendon. He’s worth it. He led National League third basemen in fielding percentage in three of the last four seasons. The Sox can move Yoan Moncada, the incumbent third baseman, to right field.
To those of you worried about the team’s pitching, drool over this possible batting order: Tim Anderson, Moncada, Abreu, Rendon, Eloy Jimenez, Grandal, Luis Robert, Yolmer Sanchez and James McCann.
Getting a bit ahead of ourselves here? I sure hope so. What has come before hasn’t been what you’d call a party. It took a mountain of losses for the Sox to get to this point. During that span, their fans were left to gaze longingly at the minor-league system. For some of us, hearing about prospects’ potential is like being told that the presence of ice on Mars points to life. Let us know when you have something a bit more tangible. It was nice to see Robert’s success at three minor-league levels last season. The Sox’ top prospect hit a combined .328 with 32 home runs and 92 RBI, earning him USA Today’s Minor League Player of the Year award.
Wonderful, terrific, splendid.
But, now, finally, there’s a chance for team success you can see and feel. In 2020. At the major-league level.
The Grandal deal is a good sign, but it’s not the sign. That would be the Sox outbidding major-market teams for someone like Rendon. That’s when you’ll know the Sox have officially arrived.
There’s opportunity here for the South Siders. The Cubs are regrouping. The Sox might not be the best baseball team in Chicago in 2020, but they have a chance to be the more interesting team. They might be able to snap up Cubs fans who are upset with the Ricketts family’s politics or with the idea of having to pay to watch the Cubs play on the team’s new TV network.
Grandal was a nice signing for the Sox and their fans.
Now it’s on to the next one. The big one.