On this date a year ago, the White Sox signed All-Star catcher Yasmani Grandal to a four-year, $73MM free agent contract. That proved to be the biggest splash of an eventful 2019-20 offseason for the South Siders, who also extended face of the franchise (and future MVP) José Abreu and brought in Dallas Keuchel and Edwin Encarnación.
Chicago’s active offseason clearly signaled they believed their rebuild was through. The hope was that Grandal’s two-way prowess would help solidify the pitching staff and add some offense to a lineup that had been below-average in 2019. In the first year of the deal, the 32-year-old delivered.
Grandal posted a .230/.351/.422 slash line with eight home runs over 194 plate appearances. A spike in strikeouts contributed to that meager .230 batting average, but Grandal more than offset that by drawing plenty of walks and hitting for power. His 117 wRC+ indicates he was seventeen points better than the league average hitter this past season. That’s right in line with his career production and not too far off the pace of his prior two years.
Single-season defensive metrics are quite fluky; that’s all the more true in a season prorated to sixty games. Nevertheless, it’s worth noting Grandal also rated as a top five pitch framer in the sport in 2020, per Statcast. That’s par for the course, as the former first-rounder perennially rates as one of the league’s best at stealing strikes. He also cut down six of thirteen attempted base stealers. There’s no question Grandal was a key piece of Chicago’s 35-25 record, which was enough to qualify for the expanded postseason format.
Grandal’s continued presence on the roster is a big reason the Sox aren’t expected to re-sign James McCann, who profiles as the second-best catcher on the market this offseason on the heels of a monster 2020 effort. Wherever McCann ends up, the White Sox should still have one of the league’s best catching situations. GM Rick Hahn and the rest of the front office have to be pleased with the initial return on their biggest investment last winter.