The Astros are 35-46 in last place in the AL West entering Saturday’s action, but they’re actually in much better shape than we thought they’d be (they were 51-111 last season), and they’re actually a fun team to watch. Second baseman Jose Altuve is a big reason behind both of those.
Altuve is now hitting a league-leading .342 with a league-leading 32 stolen bases in 35 attempts. He’s had seven multi-hit games out of his last ten starts, and went 4-for-5 with a double and an RBI last night. Oh, and also? He stole home.
According to Baseball Reference, it’s the second time in Altuve’s career that he’s stolen home.
While the Astros, stunningly, have several viable nominees (Dallas Keuchel, George Springer) to represent the club at this year’s All-Star Game at Target Field, Altuve should almost certainly get the honor if the Astros are to have only one representative. He may not start, however, as one can make an argument in favor of Ian Kinsler or Brian Dozier for starting honors. (Robinson Cano leads all American League second basemen in balloting by about 670,000 votes at the recent count.) Still, Altuve is having a fine season and has quickly become one of baseball’s most exciting players to watch.
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.