Scott Kazmir dazzles in his Astros debut

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Lefty Scott Kazmir dazzled in his Astros debut on Friday night, tossing seven scoreless innings against the Royals, the American League’s best team by record. He gave up three hits and a walk while striking out three on 91 pitches in a 4-0 victory.

The Astros acquired Kazmir on Thursday in exchange for pitcher Daniel Mengden and catcher Jacob Nottingham, both minor leaguers.

Kazmir slots in nicely behind Dallas Keuchel, giving the Astros a nice 1-2 punch. He entered Friday’s start with a 2.38 ERA and a 101/35 K/BB ratio over 109 2/3 innings spanning 18 starts. It’s a stunning career turnaround, considering Kazmir was playing in the Atlantic League with the Sugar Land Skeeters in 2012.

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.