Bernstein: White Sox Declare They Are Contenders

The White Sox signed All-Star catcher Yasmani Grandal to a four-year deal.

Dan Bernstein
November 21, 2019 - 1:52 pm
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(670 The Score) The window is open for the White Sox, and it's already letting in both sunshine and fresh air.

With the signing of free-agent catcher Yasmani Grandal on Thursday to a four-year contract worth $73 million, they announced to their fans and MLB competitors that they believe it's time for their deliberate reconstruction project to transition into the envisioned competitive phase. The action means more than words, but those of executive Ken Williams were available almost immediately after the announcement.

"This was all planned," Williams told Jeff Passan of ESPN. "Going back five years ago when we started this and started thinking about this. We get ourselves in position with our young core, and we could augment it with guys like this. It's clearly we're trying to put ourselves in a window that could very well start next year but extend to the next five to seven years."

It had better start right away, seeing that Grandal is 31 years old and may not maintain his 4-5 fWAR rate as he ages. Think of this, then, like the South Side version of the Jon Lester signing -- one that signifies a shift to win-now mode even if there could be full awareness of less value on the back end of the deal. For that reason, it also should now be followed by major expenditures on two other glaring needs -- a veteran starting pitcher and corner outfielder.

Andy Martino of SNY reported Thursday that the White Sox were among the teams pursuing 29-year-old right-hander Zack Wheeler, who was worth 4.7 wins last season and 4.2 in 2018 for the Mets.  Star right-hander Gerrit Cole remains a possibility, too. As for the bat, it's reasonable to speculate regarding such names as Nick Castellanos and Marcell Ozuna, among others.

They're in play here because of the steps taken in 2019 by a group of foundational players acquired as prospects in a number of trades. Left fielder Eloy Jimenez debuted with 31 home runs and a 116 wRC+, right-hander Lucas Giolito had a 5.1 fWAR year and third baseman Yoan Moncada was on the fringes of MVP candidacy with a 141 wRC+ and 5.7 fWAR. Adding their breakouts to the consistency of Jose Abreu and bat-to-ball skill of batting champion Tim Anderson allowed any reasonable observer to conclude the time had arrived for the White Sox to deploy their best and biggest current asset, a huge pile of cash.

If there was yet another tacit agreement among MLB owners to drag their feet on signings as long as possible to drive down prices, general manager Rick Hahn didn't get the memo. The White Sox will be no part of the usual soft collusion, instead making a splash a week before Thanksgiving that would seem to be the harbinger of more.

Hahn has admitted that their previous pursuit of Manny Machado a year ago was more public than it otherwise would've been due to their desire to push back against the perception that they wouldn't spend. That the White Sox came up $50 million short in guaranteed money in losing out to the Padres did them no favors to that end, but the combination of Machado's relatively underwhelming 3.1-win 2019 and their current status as market-setters will bend the narrative back in their favor, if they still care.

More important is the baseball itself and the construction of a roster that looks like it could have real depth and impact, especially when center fielder Luis Robert is added as soon as May, if not before.

A swift and certain move to secure the services of a well-rounded All-Star catcher is perfectly good reason to get excited for what's to come.

Dan Bernstein is a co-host of 670 The Score’s Bernstein & McKnight Show in midday. You can follow him on Twitter @Dan_Bernstein.