Yankees bat Alex Rodriguez fourth in 2013 debut

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Is this the Yankees’ way of telling Alex Rodriguez to put up or shut up? They have their 38-year-old former MVP batting cleanup Monday against the White Sox in his 2013 debut.

It’s A-Rod’s first start for the Yankees since Game 2 of last year’s ALCS against the Tigers. Playing on a bad hip that required surgery, Rodriguez hit sixth behind Raul Ibanez and Russell Martin in that one. He wound up finishing 1-for-4 and then took a seat for Games 3 and 4 in the Tigers’ sweep, though he did go 0-for-2 off the bench in Game 4.

If Rodriguez were returning in a more traditional fashion tonight, he may well have started off hitting fifth or sixth. His .214/.333/.452 line in 42 minor league at-bats during his rehab assignment doesn’t exactly scream cleanup hitter.

Rodriguez, though, tried to dictate the pace of his own returning, putting himself at odds with the Yankees more than once. He says he’s ready, so now the team expects to prove it.

With A-Rod batting fourth, Alfonso Soriano has moved up to second in the order versus left-hander Jose Quintana. Vernon Wells is batting fifth and making his first career start at first base, not that anyone will notice.

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.