Nationals make Sept. 12 the Stephen Strasburg shutdown date

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Despite their placement atop the NL East standings, the Nationals announced after Sunday’s game that Stephen Strasburg will make two more starts and then get shut down for the rest of the season.

Strasburg, who struck out nine over six scoreless innings against the Cardinals on Sunday, will pitch Friday at home versus the Marlins and then on Sept. 12 on the road against the Mets before calling it a season.

The thinking prior to Opening Day was that Strasburg would be shut down after reaching 160 innings, but the Nationals have decided to let him get closer to 170 in his first year back from Tommy John surgery. He’s at 156 1/3 innings after throwing six innings today.

Strasburg currently leads the National League with 195 strikeouts and is 15-6 with a 2.94 ERA. John Lannan is expected to take his spot in the rotation. If the Nationals advance to the playoffs — they lead the Braves in the East by seven games at the moment — they’ll likely go with a top three of Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann and Edwin Jackson in some order, with either Ross Detwiler or Lannan in the fourth spot.

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.