On Thursday, the Chicago White Sox signed free-agent catcher Yasmani Grandal to a four-year deal worth $73 million. Grandal, who spent last season with the Milwaukee Brewers, entered the winter ranked by CBS Sports as the fifth-best player on the open market. For the time being, Grandal represents the richest free-agent signing in White Sox history. In time, however, his signing could come to serve as the symbolic flag-raising that marked Chicago’s return to the competitive ranks.
The White Sox haven’t been good in a while. Their last winning season was back in 2012. Their last playoff berth? That was in 2008. And the last time they won a playoff series? You have to go all the way back to 2005, when they won the World Series. Yet they do have the makings of a team on the rise.
Consider that the White Sox should be able to field a lineup sometime early next season — after, presumably, they’ve gamed service time — that has Grandal behind the plate; Yoan Moncada, Tim Anderson, Nick Madrigal, and Jose Abreu around the horn; and Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert — — in the outfield. Factor in a potential late-season promotion for Andrew Vaughn, the No. 3 pick in last June’s draft, and the White Sox’s lineup looks solid on paper.
The same cannot be said for Chicago’s pitching staff. At present, the White Sox can count on Lucas Giolito at the top of the rotation and a couple of bullpen arms — including Alex Colome and Aaron Bummer, who is one of the more underrated left-handed relievers in the game — to hold steady in the late innings. Otherwise? The White Sox are banking on a number of youngsters either making noteworthy leaps (Reynaldo Lopez, Dylan Cease) or not missing a beat in their return from injury (Michael Kopech).
That’s fine and dandy, and it might work out well across the board. But any reasonable analysis of the White Sox would conclude that they should be aggressive in adding at least one or two more starters to the mix. Those starters don’t necessarily have to be of the Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg variety, either. The market includes a number of second- or third-tier types who could be more realistic.
One name to keep in mind for the White Sox is erstwhile New York Mets right-hander Zack Wheeler. A league source told CBS Sports on Thursday that the White Sox are expected to meet with Wheeler over the coming week. While it doesn’t mean that a deal is close or will get done, it’s worth noting that Wheeler (ranked No. 7 on CBS Sports’ top-50 list) would fit their needs.
Regardless of what does or doesn’t happen with Wheeler, the White Sox pitchers are better positioned to succeed heading forward thanks to the Grandal addition because of the defensive upgrade they’ve made behind the plate. James McCann is, to put it kindly, a substandard receiver. Grandal, meanwhile, is one of the best in baseball. The gap between the two was worth three wins last season, per Baseball Prospectus. Keep in mind, that’s without considering the offensive difference between the two.
If the White Sox can add more necessary parts to their roster over the coming months, then they could enter next season positioned to make a run for a playoff spot. Remember, the Minnesota Twins found themselves in a similar situation last winter — and ended up winning the American League Central after an aggressive offseason. The Twins need to make a number of additions to their own rotation, which casts doubt on their ability to repeat. Cleveland, on the other hand, needs to address its lineup — and may end up trading from a veteran group that includes Corey Kluber, Francisco Lindor, and/or Brad Hand, further complicating an attempt to retake the throne.
The White Sox, then, have a real opportunity in front of them. So far, so good. But in order to make the most of it, they’ll need Grandal to be the beginning rather than the end.
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