The Chicago White Sox spent last offseason chasing Manny Machado and Bryce Harper only to fall well short of both. This winter of 2019/20 has already proven to be more ruthless for the ChiSox with Yasmani Grandal and Jose Abreu signed long-term.
Grandal is in the top three catchers in the sport. Abreu, a reliable offensive player, is a franchise pillar who has remained through the rebuild while Chris Sale, Jose Quintana and Adam Eaton were shipped elsewhere to stock the farm.
This winter could have easily been like last for Chicago. Anthony Rendon and Gerrit Cole are the shiniest toys on the market – another winter of chasing players they would eventually have been outbid for seemed possible. Instead, Rick Hahn changed tact, moved quickly and secured deals for two players who will be core pieces as they look to tackle the Cleveland Indians and Minnesota Twins in the American League Central.
The Milwaukee Brewers received praise when they landed Grandal. It was a surprise to see four years given to the switch-hitting catcher, but the White Sox get the same nod. Grandal goes under the radar, but he’s an elite offensive weapon and a top level defender. Austin Hedges was the only player with more framing runs than the former Dodger, and his bat slots straight into the middle of most line-ups.
Abreu is moving into his age-33 season. The concern about decline is hard to ignore. The production offensively remains solid, however, even if his numbers in 2018 and 2019 were a long way short of his 141 OPS+ mark in 2017. Whether the contract ages well or not, it’s easy to see why Hahn moved to tie up their franchise slugger.
With Eloy Jimenez heading into his second year, Yoan Moncada having broken out and Luis Robert and Nick Madrigal on the way, 2020 could be the year the White Sox finally benefit from a painful few seasons. That’s without mentioning Lucas Giolito‘s immense 2019 and the return of Michael Kopech from surgery. Another starter and perhaps an outfielder will be the focus for the rest of the offseason.
Only the White Sox and Atlanta Braves have made notable additions so far this winter. There’s a decisiveness about Hahn’s moves that was lacking last season. It feels wrong to call the biggest contract in franchise history pragmatic, but it might just be the best word for it. There will be a lot of exciting talent on the White Sox next season – Hahn has made a great start to filling out the roster around them.