Bruce Bochy hints that Brandon Belt could get some playing time in the outfield

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Giants outfielder Angel Pagan hasn’t played in Cactus League exhibitions since last Saturday due to lower back problems. The 33-year-old had back surgery last September and came into spring training with no restrictions, but this latest setback has the Giants concerned.

How concerned? Manager Bruce Bochy is thinking about who could play in the outfield in Pagan’s absence, and one of the options that came up was current first baseman Brandon Belt. Via Andrew Baggarly of the Mercury News:

When the spring began, Giants GM Brian Sabean made a declarative statement: Brandon Belt was a first baseman, period.

But with Hunter Pence’s arm in a cast and Angel Pagan receiving back injections again, it might be time to change the punctuation.

“I wouldn’t say period,” said Giants manager Bruce Bochy on Friday, asked about using Belt to cover a suddenly thin outfield. “More of a comma. It’s currently being discussed. We’ve talked about Brandon. We’ve done it before.”

Belt has played in the outfield before, of course, but hasn’t logged significant time there since 2011. He accrued 27 1/3 defensive innings in left field in 2012, none in ’13, and exactly one inning in right field last year.

If Pagan would be out for any length of time, Gregor Blanco would likely take over in center field. With Hunter Pence out until late April or early May with a broken forearm, right field would be open to Matt Duffy, Adam Duvall, Gary Brown, Juan Perez, and Belt. Then, with first base open, Buster Posey could move out from behind the plate for a little while, which would help his durability over the course of the season.

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.