Kevin Millwood beats out Hisashi Iwakuma for final spot in Mariners’ rotation

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Manager Eric Wedge announced today that Felix Hernandez and Jason Vargas will be joined in the Mariners’ rotation by Hector Noesi, Blake Beavan, and Kevin Millwood.

Millwood signed a minor-league deal in January after spending the end of last season with the Rockies and the 37-year-old beat out Japanese import Hisashi Iwakuma for the fifth spot in the rotation.

Iwakuma, who was an elite starter in Japan for his entire career, will begin the season in the bullpen after showing underwhelming velocity. Last offseason the A’s bid $19 million for exclusive negotiating rights to Iwakuma and then balked at paying his asking price, which now looks like a very sound decision. His deal with the Mariners is worth just $1.5 million in upfront money.

Yasmani Grandal signs a four-year, $73 million deal with the White Sox

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The first truly big free agent signing of the offseason has gone down: the Chicago White Sox just announced that they have signed catcher Yasmani Grandal to a four-year, $73 million deal.

Grandal, 31, was the best catcher available in free agency. He is coming off a fine year with the Milwaukee Brewers, with whom he had to settle for a one-year pact in 2019. He hit .246/.380/.468 with 28 homers and 77 driven in. It was his fourth straight season with 20+ homers. While his catching has been criticized due to some high-profile mistakes in the postseason, the two-time All-Star once again proved himself to be one of the best pitch-framers in the game if not the best. Between the bat and the glove he has a claim to being one of the best all-around catchers in baseball.

The signing leaves open the question of what happens to James McCann, who was himself an All-Star this year. It’s not that hard a question, of course, as Grandal is a far superior catcher to McCann in every respect. The Sox could make McCann a backup. Alternatively, they could try to trade him to fill other holes on the roster.

The White Sox finished 72-89 in 2019 but are showing signs of coming out of rebuilding mode and into contention mode. This signing pushes them a big step into that direction.