$188.9 million has been added to the payroll of the Chicago White Sox for the next four years, on top of their existing financial commitments – this team is ready to compete for a berth in the postseason.
Yasmani Grandal – 4 years, $73 million
Dallas Keuchel – 3 years, $55.5 million
Gio Gonzalez – 1 year, $5 million
James McCann – 1 year, $5.4 million
Jose Abreu – 3 years, $50 million
The White Sox, who were all in on trying to sign Manny Machado last offseason before being rebuffed, pieced together a rag-tag bunch of players for their 2019 season, which resulted in much of the same results that they have been experiencing over the course of the past few seasons. Without much success record-wise, the White Sox have been quietly building up a contending team, but free agency was a necessary piece to finish out that process.
Grandal comes over from the Milwaukee Brewers, who, like Keuchel and Gonzalez, were signed to one-year deals last year, proved their worth, and were looking to cash in on their value on the open market. Thankfully for players, this winter played out a ton differently than that of last year, where players were forced to settle for one-year, below-market deals to try and recoup some value.
For Grandal, his season in Brew City was very impressive, as his offensive metrics were just as solid as his career totals, and his defensive struggles that were put under a spotlight for the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 2018 playoffs disappeared without really any sort of a trace. While the Brewers and Grandal had mutual interest for him to return to Milwaukee, the money – and contract length – was not something that the two could agree upon, thus paving the way for Yaz to sign with the White Sox.
Both Keuchel and Gonzalez come to the White Sox as softer-tossing, left-handed starting pitchers who rely on supreme control and speed changes to mess with the timing of hitters. Keuchel enjoyed a good amount of success with the Atlanta Braves last season after signing after Opening Day, and Gonzalez was battery mates with Grandal in Milwaukee, putting up solid numbers amid becoming a steady veteran presence in the revolving door of the team’s rotation.
Keuchel finally was able to cash in on his value that he was unable to do last offseason, while Gonzalez signs another one-year deal in hopes to string together a few solid seasons on the back-end of his storied pitching career. While Gonzalez is not close to the kind of pitcher that he once was with the Washington Nationals, Gonzalez is a steady, back-end arm that can be counted on for solid innings, provided the catcher is able to manage his stuff and the game efficiently.
Grandal should be an excellent backstop to pair with both Keuchel and Gonzalez, as he understands the importance of pitch location and situation, and his familiarity having caught Gonzalez in 2019 will help translate that success over to helping Keuchel remain a dominant arm. With the team having added two new lefties to their rotation, Lucas Giolito finally has some solid arms around him in the rotation, helping set the White Sox up for a much better 2020 and beyond.
McCann was brought back on a one-year deal to be the team’s main backup catcher, and while he held down the starting role quite efficiently last year, the team has demonstrated that they want him to still have a regular role moving forward. This means that on certain days, Grandal could become the team’s first baseman with McCann behind the plate and Abreu as the designated hitter, or Abreu and Grandal could switch, or even McCann could become a DH on occasion.
A cheap but solid backup catcher is quite underrated in this league, and McCann represents a solid option moving forward, even if he is only back on a one-year deal.
Abreu marks the last big-time addition to this team, even though he was brought back after having played his entire MLB career for the White Sox up to this point. While negotiations between the team and Abreu were touch and go for a bit before he agreed to sign the $17.8 million Qualifying Offer, they quickly worked on extending Abreu, hence the three-year deal that he signed less than two weeks later.
First base looks to be one of the more settled areas of this team moving forward, as does catcher and their rotation. They also acquired Nomar Mazara from the Texas Rangers this offseason, so their outfield is a bit more solid than it was last year.
While spending a ton of money does not always guarantee immediate success, the White Sox are making calculated gambles on players that are looking to be breakouts or continue their strong performances into 2020 and beyond. This team’s interest in Machado was no gimmick, as they are very ready to jump back into postseason contention yet again.
There are a few elements that this team could still use improvements in, like their bullpen, second base, and a full-time DH, but there is still plenty of time to address those areas. With the franchise’s rumored interest in Edwin Encarnacion, the DH role could be solidified as soon as the clock hits midnight and the calendar switches over to 2020.
Money makes things better, usually, and the fans of the White Sox should understand that while on paper this team is much improved, their on-field performance is still yet to be determined. By adding the types of players that they did to their existing core, this roster looks to be shaping up to be one of the dark horses in the American League for the 2020 playoffs, trying to make the AL Central division have its third different divisional winner in the past three seasons.
Fighting against the Minnesota Twins and the Cleveland Indians for the divisional crown is not an easy feat, but the White Sox have been constantly improving their roster for this, and 2020 looks to be the best time to put all of their chips on the table, but not necessarily in the middle of the table.