Michael Saunders will not be ready for Opening Day

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Blue Jays outfielder Michael Saunders was making steady enough progress in his return from knee surgery that reports about him possibly being ready for Opening Day began surfacing, but manager John Gibbons shut that down today.

Gibbons told Gregor Chisholm of MLB.com that Saunders will not be ready for Opening Day and will begin the season on the disabled list. At the time of the surgery the initial timetable had Saunders missing most of the first half, so returning at any point in April would still be a major boost for Toronto.

Saunders was acquired from the Mariners in exchange for left-hander J.A. Happ in December and will be the Blue Jays’ starting left fielder once he’s healthy. Last season he hit .273 with eight homers and a .791 OPS in 78 games.

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.