With the general manager meetings in the rearview mirror and the Winter Meetings approaching, Major League Baseball is fully immersed in the offseason, and the hot stove is heating up. Even though other issues like the Astros sign-stealing scandal have continued to grab the headlines, teams are starting to either move in on free agents or starting to lay the groundwork.
One big free agent was scooped up this week, and many are likely to follow as baseball’s second season gets in full swing. Let’s take a look at news from around the league.
White Sox Make First Big Splash
The Chicago White Sox did not wait long to let their presence be felt in the free-agent market. This week, the White Sox were able to get the best catcher on the market by signing Yasmani Grandal to a four-year, $73 million contract. According to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, Grandal will make $18.25 million per year and does have a no-trade clause in 2020 and a partial one thereafter.
Last year, with the Milwaukee Brewers, Grandal hit .246/.380/.468 with 28 home runs, 77 runs batted in and 79 runs scored. He is also seen as one of the premier pitch framers in the league. Given the young staff of the White Sox, he will certainly be a nice addition.
It will be interesting from here to see what the White Sox do with incumbent catcher James McCann. McCann had a bit of a breakout year in 2019, as he hit .273/.328/.460 with 18 home runs, 60 runs batted in and 62 runs scored. Still, McCann tailed off a bit towards the end of the season and does not offer near the defensive upside of Grandal.
Regardless, it is a good sign for White Sox fans who have had to endure a rebuild that the club is ready to start moving all its chips in.
White Sox Extend Abreu
The White Sox were not done with just the Grandal signing this week, though. After being one of two players to accept the qualifying offer (Jake Odorizzi of the Twins was the other), Jose Abreu now has a little long-term security. The White Sox and the first baseman/designated hitter have agreed to a three-year, $50 million contract.
It is a bit surprising, given that Abreu is already 32 at a position that is not as highly valued anymore, but the White Sox likely valued not only his production but his veteran leadership as well. Last season, Abreu hit .284/.330/.503 with 33 home runs, a league-best 123 runs batted in and 85 runs scored.
Still, while it is likely a bit elevated in price, the White Sox still have plenty of payroll space to continue to be a big factor in the free-agent market.
Yankees Cut Ellsbury
As clubs around the majors adjusted their 40-man rosters ahead of this week’s deadline, some notable roster cuts happened, and one of the biggest names came from the New York Yankees. The Bronx Bombers have officially released outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury.
The former All-Star outfielder has struggled to stay healthy over the last few years, but at his pinnacle, he was a solid all-around outfielder. Ellsbury had signed a massive contract with the Yankees after his 2013 season (seven years, $153 million), but he has been unable to get on the field over the last couple of seasons.
The best season of Ellsbury’s career was in 2011 when he hit .321/.376/.552 with 32 home runs, 105 runs batted in, 119 runs and 39 stolen bases. Since then, though, he has been a shell of that player. In 2017, the last season that he played, he hit .264/.348/.402 over 409 at-bats with seven home runs, 39 runs batted in and 65 runs scored.
Interestingly, Ellsbury is set to still be paid over $26 million next season, but it appears the Yankees are going to try to get out of paying it. They are going to try to use the argument that he received medical treatment from outside the Yankees without their approval (a point that might violate his contract).
For his part, Ellsbury argues the point, and it appears that the MLB Player’s Union also intends to fight this if the Yankees do try to get out of paying the contract. While the payment will be an ongoing fight, one thing is for sure, Ellsbury’s tenure with the Yankees is done.
Atlanta Braves Re-Sign Martin
Like the White Sox, the Atlanta Braves have been aggressive early on in the free-agent period, and they have now inked three relievers to contracts for the upcoming season. After already having signed Will Smith and Darren O’Day to deals, the Braves announced that they re-signed Chris Martin to a two-year, $14 million deal this week also.
Acquired to bolster the Braves’ bullpen last season, Martin, unfortunately, suffered an oblique strain, which prevented him from truly contributing in the postseason. Still, his season was solid. Overall, Martin was 1-3 with four saves, a 3.40 ERA, 1.024 WHIP, and struck out 65 batters in 55 2/3 innings.
Between Martin, Smith, O’Day, Shane Greene and Mark Melancon, the Braves are establishing a very solid, veteran bullpen as they have their eyes on a return to the postseason next year.