Josh Donaldson credits new teammate Jose Bautista for breakout

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Josh Donaldson put himself on the map in 2013 with the Athletics when he put up an .883 OPS while slugging 24 home runs and compiling 8.0 WAR (per Baseball Reference). He cemented his status as one of the game’s most productive third basemen this past season, when he hit 29 homers and was worth 7.4 WAR.

Donaldson wasn’t always viewed so highly. He repeated Triple-A twice after his initial stint in Sacramento in 2010. What helped him break out? He emulated Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista who, like Donaldson, didn’t break out until his late 20’s. Via Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star:

“I probably watched thousands of hours of Bautista swinging,” says Donaldson, whose uses a similar leg kick to Bautista to generate power. “We don’t do everything exactly the same, but what I try to do is I try to see what he was successful with, and a couple other guys in the big leagues who were very successful, and try to (recreate) it into something of my own.”

Donaldson also saw something of a kindred career in Bautista, also a late-blooming star. “He was somewhat of a journeyman major leaguer until he landed in Toronto and I was kind of almost being labeled as a 4-A/Triple-A guy and then kind of breaking out a little bit in 2012 towards the end of the season, and then in 2013 kind of putting it together.”

Now the two, together, make up part of a fearsome middle of the order for the Blue Jays along with Edwin Encarnacion and Russell Martin. Early projections for the 2015 season see Donaldson hitting another 26 home runs with 5.6 WAR while Bautista is expected to hit 36 home runs with 5.4 WAR.

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.