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The White Sox Have a New “Yaz” to Talk About

by Jordan Lazowski

You can stop pinching yourself now. This is real.

The White Sox got the Hot Stove cooking this afternoon in the best way possible. With the signing, the White Sox have made their intentions clear: it’s time to take things to the next level.

There have been a lot of good questions swirling around White Sox Twitter all afternoon. Let’s try and break some of them down and really talk about the impact of this signing.

Grandal’s Immediate Impact

Grandal couldn’t fit more perfectly with this team. Two of the needs Rick Hahn identified for this offseason were on-base ability and left-handed hitting. Grandal checks both of these boxes. His 109 walks in 2019 were more than than the Sox’ top two hitters COMBINED, and the leader – Yolmer Sanchez with 44 walks – likely won’t be back next season. Grandal has also hit at least 20 home runs in each of the previous 4 seasons. In fact, Grandal leads all major league catchers in home runs since 2015. No matter how you look at it, Grandal fits perfectly in the middle of this order as the proven impact bat from outside the organization that this team has been lacking. I also love this quote from Grandal, which you can find in James Fegan’s latest piece on The Athletic:

“Last year, I made some strides into getting guys to understand the value to actually getting on base,” Grandal said. “Obviously, the more guys we get on base, the more opportunities we have to score. At the end of the day, if you score, you’re going to win.”

– Yasmani Grandal

I know people hate the term “veteran presence,” but this is the value of the term in its most complete essence. Every team needs some proven players on it in order to win – just take a look at the Nationals this year.

With the White Sox trending towards a more analytically-driven front office, Rick Hahn has brought up pitch framing more and more often. Grandal obviously checks this box as well, ranking in the top 3 in framing runs across three different platforms – Baseball Prospectus, Fangraphs, and Baseball Savant. On a team that hasn’t seen a quality pitch framing catcher since Tyler Flowers, Grandal’s presence on both sides of the ball will be a more noticeable sight than I think many fans realize right now. You’ll notice it when guys like Cease, Kopech, and Lopez start to get more called strikes off the corner, and you’ll be able to thank Grandal for that.

Don’t the Sox Already Have a Catcher in McCann?

We at Sox On 35th are McCann’s personal hype team. This will not change heading into 2020. However, we are also realists. McCann’s BABIP-driven first half of 2019 is less likely to be repeated than his second half, in which he hit just .226/.281/.413. However, by signing Grandal, the White Sox arguably have the best 1-2 punch in baseball behind the plate.

McCann’s worth comes in the form of game-calling, power potential, and game preparation. He is a monster against LHP (.295/.372/.492 in 2019), and as a result, becomes one of the most valuable backup catchers in the game. Most team’s backup catcher is a good pitch framer who provides little to no offense value and likely would not be in the league if not for their pitch framing skills. Instead, the Sox now have two catchers who can provide offensive value in the middle of the lineup. Look for McCann to continue to be Lucas Giolito’s catcher, while DH’ing once and awhile against LHP. Just because the Sox signed Grandal doesn’t mean McCann will – or even should – be traded. He is a valuable piece to this puzzle – depth has never been a bad thing. The White Sox absolutely made the correct move in prioritizing talent over positional need. As a result, their catching core hasn’t looked better in a VERY long time.

Can we also talk about how much I LOVE this comment? This is a dude who is hungry to win, and he’s going to fit the culture that’s being created on the South Side perfectly.

What Happens to Collins/Mercedes/Zavala?

The White Sox now have the best problem in the world: too many players at one position. Of the three of these guys most likely to go, it’s Zavala. He provides no defensive value and regressed mightily last season at AAA. Between Collins and Mercedes, the White Sox have two attractive bats that they can choose to handle in two ways: 1) Set up some sort of 1B/DH platoon, or 2) Trade one or both of these players.

Likely, there is going to be a combination of these two things. There are too many players with not enough spots in the foreseeable future. If I were to guess, Zack Collins is likely to hear his name tossed around in trade rumors this offseason. Let me be clear, because I’ve seen this take a lot: If the Sox trade Zack Collins, it DOES NOT MEAN he is a bust. In fact, it means quite the opposite. It means the Sox were able to trade their former first round draft pick for a player that could contribute to a playoff-bound team. You’re not going to be able to say the same thing about a guy like (sigh) Carson Fulmer. Not everyone who is on the farm now HAS to be on this team when they’re ready to compete.

I don’t think the White Sox will be actively shopping Collins. However, I think this signing makes him a lot more available than he was before. As for Yermin Mercedes, he’s a wild card. He is valuable enough that the White Sox decided to use a 40-man roster spot on him to save him from the Rule 5 Draft. This means they do in fact have some sort of plan for him in 2020. I don’t know what the Sox will do with him, but I hope they wait awhile to make a decision – I don’t think the 108ers could handle losing Palka AND Mercedes in the same week.

Thank You, Next

Rick Hahn and company should take a second to applaud themselves for the work they did today. In a market that has recently tried to save any penny possible on free agents, the White Sox identified their target and made an offer that Grandal couldn’t refuse. They didn’t wait, they didn’t try to save money – they simply spent what they knew it would take. In other words, they learned from their Machado Saga. They should be applauded for that, if only momentarily.

Okay, it’s been a moment. Now that the moment has passed, it’s time for the White Sox to focus on their next area of need: SP or RF, pick one and go for it. My guess? The Sox trade for a RF. Rumors are already swirling that Zack Wheeler could become a part of the mix, and much like with Grandal, the White Sox should not wait around to approach him. This should go for any Free Agent that the White Sox are planning to target. Set the market, don’t wait around to let the market be set for you. The White Sox and Braves should both be applauded for how they began this offseason. But, it’s not just about how you start – it’s about how you finish too.

It appears both Hahn and Williams have already hinted that more is on the horizon:

With the move today, the White Sox have captured the attention of the entire city. They have made it clear that they are ready to make impact moves. The fans that have bought into the rebuild are hyped, and those that didn’t buy in are starting to see the light at the end of the rebuild tunnel.

The good news is they aren’t the only ones….

Sox Fans Aren’t the Only Ones Buying In

Scott Boras talked about the White Sox just last week:

This is why “destroying the narrative” around big signings is really unimportant. At the end of the day, even the fact that Yasmani Grandal is actual talent – rather than marginal talent – doesn’t really matter all that much either. It’s much simpler than that. It means that Scott Boras was right: Free Agents are buying into what the White Sox are doing. It’s like Jon Lester to the Cubs several years ago – the path is clearer today than it was before this season. Not only do the fans see it, but players do too. You can’t do this without the buy in of outside talent. Currently, they’ve got that buy in.

One last thing that I don’t think has gotten talked about enough: this likely doesn’t happen without the 2019 season that the White Sox had. With guys like Jimenez, Moncada, Anderson, and Giolito grabbing national headlines day after day, the White Sox finally have something other than “hope” and “promise” to sell free agents on. In fact, they have the most important thing: results. With all the talk being about Grandal studying White Sox pitchers before signing, it was clear: he saw the results, yet also saw the untapped potential. And he wanted in on it. I’m not sure the White Sox could sign Grandal to this exact same contract a year ago – not after the abysmal 2018 season on the South Side.

Yasmani Grandal is only the first piece of a very complicated offseason puzzle for the White Sox. A lot has to go right, and Rick Hahn and company will undoubtedly face challenges as they work to pull off the trades and signings necessary to being the White Sox closer to contention in 2020.

But, they took the most important step today: the first one.

Thoughts? Comments? As always, let me know! @jlazowski14

Featured Photo: Our man, the talented Brandon Anderson (@b_son4)

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I found your comment about the Sox moving toward a more analytically driven front office interesting. Is there any evidence of that?

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