No longer burdened by draft-pick compensation, Grandal found the multiyear contract he failed to get last off-season. The All-Star catcher agreed Thursday to a $73 million, four-year contract with the White Sox.
"There’s a lot of young talent," Grandal said. "The way I looked at it, this team could be a dark horse in the next year or so."
Grandal turned down a $17.9 million qualifying offer from the Los Angeles Dodgers last November. A team signing him during the 2018-19 off-season would have lost a top amateur draft pick and he found a slow market. He agreed in January to a deal with Milwaukee that guaranteed $18.25 million: a $16 million salary for 2019 and a $16 million mutual option for 2020 with a $2.25 million buyout.
"Exciting day for us around here, being able to add one of the elite talents at a premium position," general manager Rick Hahn said.
Selected for the All-Star team for the second time, the 31-year-old hit .246 and had career bests with 28 homers and 77 RBIs. He declined to exercise his part of the option and became a free agent again.
A free agent may only be given a qualifying offer once, so there was no draft-pick compensation attached this off-season. Chicago’s deal will pay him $18.25 million annually.
"Unlike last year around this time, where the market was kind of completely nonexistent, this year was just slightly different," Grandal said. "It seemed like there were several teams that were working hard within their limits to be able to compete. There were several teams that were really interested. The one thing that kind of stood out the most for me is the White Sox. I love their professionalism, their preparation and the direction of the program."
The switch-hitter has had four straight seasons with more than 20 home runs. He leads major league catchers with 117 homers since 2015 and ranks third in that span with 322 RBIs.
Grandal is looking forward to joining a team he believes has a bright future with promising young pitchers and hitters. Another plus for him was manager Rick Renteria, his bench coach in San Diego.
Hahn said the White Sox met with Grandal at the general managers meetings in Arizona last week and reached an agreement on Wednesday night. The move gives Chicago two All-Star catchers following James McCann’s first selection last season. Hahn said either could be used at designated hitter, with Grandal also getting time at first base.
"Having too many guys who are quality big leaguers is a good thing, not something that we necessarily view as a problem," Hahn said.
Outfielder Daniel Palka was designated for assignment to make room for Grandal on the 40-man roster.
Chicago went 72-89 in its seventh straight losing season and missed the playoffs for the 13th time in 14 years since the 2005 team won the World Series. But with young players establishing themselves in the majors and promising prospects in the minors, the White Sox think they are setting themselves up to make a big jump.
Right-hander Lucas Giolito went from posting the highest ERA among qualifiers to making his first All-Star team last season, going 14-9 with a 3.41 ERA in 29 starts.
The White Sox could have a solid rotation if Michael Kopech bounces back from Tommy John surgery and Dylan Cease progresses. Both are 23. Kopech showed promise in his first four major league starts in 2018 before getting hurt. Cease debuted last July and went 4-7 with a 5.79 ERA in 14 starts.
Tim Anderson led the majors with a .335 average. Yoan Moncada had a breakthrough season, hitting .315 with 25 homers and 79 RBIs. Eloy Jimenez showed pop as a rookie, with a .267 average, 31 homers and 79 RBIs. Prized outfielder Luis Robert figures to debut next spring, and promising second baseman Nick Madrigal is in the pipeline.
"I’m going to prognosticate how this plays or how people should interpret it or what this means in terms of what we’re going to do next," Hahn said. "Generally, in my experience, people don’t want to hear about the labour; they want to see the baby. We had a boy today, I guess. … My point being the impact this has on future deals, we’ll talk about after there’s future deals."
Notes: Grandal would earn a $100,000 bonus if voted AL MVP. $90,000 for finishing second, $80,000 for third, $70,000 for fourth and $60,000 for fifth. He would get $100,000 for World Series MVP, $75,000 for League Championship Series MVP, $50,000 if he is selected an All-Star by The Sporting News, $25,000 each if he starts in the All-Star Game or wins a Gold Glove, and $15,000 apiece if he is an All-Star reserve or wins a Silver Slugger.