Very few people have used the free agent market to their advantage as well as Yasmani Grandal. After reaching free agency for the first time last offseason, Grandal was shackled by a qualifying offer. Despite declining a four-year, $60 million offer from the New York Mets, he decided to bet on himself and sign a one-year contract with the Milwaukee Brewers worth $16 million that also featured a mutual option worth $16 million with a $2.25 million buyout, bringing his total guarantee to $18.85 million. This figure beat the $17.9 million qualifying offer from the Los Angeles Dodgers that he declined but was nowhere near the guarantee that the Mets were allegedly willing to pay.
Grandal went on to have an excellent season in Milwaukee, slashing .246/.380/.468 with 109 walks to just 136 strikeouts, 28 home runs, and a well above-average 9.94 RF/9 behind the plate; he re-entered the market with no qualifying offer attached to his services. This time around, it didn’t take very long for Grandal to receive an offer to his liking, as he agreed to a four-year, $73 million deal with the Chicago White Sox. He will make $18.25 million every year, receive full no-trade protection for 2020, and have partial coverage for each of the remaining three seasons. To make room on the 40-man roster, the White Sox designated outfielder Daniel Palka for assignment.
Grandal is a monster addition to this organization. He figures to slot in the middle of the order, adding even more power to a lineup that already includes Jose Abreu. The White Sox are just about ready to compete in 2020 with budding stars Yoan Moncada (4.6 bWAR), Tim Anderson (4.0 bWAR), and Lucas Giolito (5.6 bWAR) establishing themselves, while other young players such as Michael Kopech, Luis Robert, and Zack Collins are beginning to reach the majors. Grandal will almost certainly take over as the primary receiver for the White Sox, moving top prospect Zack Collins to the role of designated hitter and 2019 catcher James McCann, barring a trade, to a backup role.
While McCann was an All-Star in 2019, his .273/.328/.460 batting line was fueled by a .359 BABIP, and he posted an OPS+ of 57 the season prior (.220/.267/.314, .581 OPS). It makes sense for the White Sox to upgrade to a player who brings much more certainty based on a very strong track record in Grandal. I don’t, however, believe that the White Sox are planning to keep McCann as a backup. As it currently stands, their 40-man roster includes five players who can suit up behind the plate: Yasmani Grandal, James McCann, Zack Collins, Seby Zavala, and Yermin Mercedes.
After sinking $73 million into Grandal, they may not want to give McCann a raise through arbitration, which could amount to as much as $5 million. That’s quite expensive for a backup catcher, especially when you have two additional catchers on the 40-man roster in Triple A. But for a starter who is coming off a season like McCann is, it’s a palatable figure. The White Sox could figure to cash in on McCann’s All-Star season via trade or, while unlikely, could even opt to non-tender him on December 2. This is a subplot that could be worth keeping an eye on.
Daniel Palka heads to DFA limbo after spending the vast majority of the 2019 season in Triple A, where he posted a batting line of .263/.374/.527 with 27 home runs over 471 plate appearances. He appeared in 30 games for the White Sox in 2019 as well but struggled mightily, slashing .107/.194/.179 (.372). He posted slightly better numbers over 449 plate appearances for the White Sox in 2018, slashing .240/.294/.484 with 27 home runs.
Palka will be out of minor-league options in the 2020 season and is exceptionally limited defensively, making it difficult to hide him on a major-league roster. He could draw a claim and move around a bit throughout the offseason based on his 27 major-league home runs in 2018, but Palka faces an uphill battle to make it back to the majors for 2020 Opening Day.