Astros infielder Jed Lowrie, who’s been out since April with a torn thumb ligament, is off the disabled list and back in the starting lineup … at third base.
At the time of the injury Lowrie was Houston’s starting shortstop, but since then stud prospect Carlos Correa has taken over the position for the next decade or so. When the Astros signed Lowrie to a three-year, $23 million deal this offseason they did so knowing Correa was nearly MLB-ready, so the move to third base was expected.
Luis Valbuena has been the Astros’ primary third baseman and he’s provided good power with 19 homers in 85 games, but that comes with a lowly .200 batting average and .698 OPS. Lowrie was off to a great start before the injury and is a career .262 hitter with a .748 OPS.
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.