Indians send Lonnie Chisenhall, Matt LaPorta to minors

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Lonnie Chisenhall was Cleveland’s starting third baseman down the stretch last season as a rookie and headed into spring training as the presumed Opening Day starter, but today the Indians sent him back to Triple-A while handing the job to veteran Jack Hannahan.

Matt LaPorta was also optioned to Triple-A and unlike Chisenhall his place in the Indians’ long-term plans is now very uncertain. LaPorta was acquired from the Brewers as the centerpiece of the CC Sabathia trade, but the former first-round pick is now 27 years old and has hit just .238 with a .701 OPS in 269 games as a big leaguer.

As a prospect LaPorta looked like a potential middle-of-the-order bat with power and plate discipline, but his stock has fallen so far that the Indians signed Casey Kotchman instead of playing him at first base. Chisenhall struggled this spring, but is probably six good weeks at Triple-A away from being back in Cleveland. LaPorta might need an injury and some big-time production in the minors to return in an expanded role.

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.