I’m guessing everybody here is well aware about the defensive shortcomings of White Sox catchers. Welington Castillo, Omar Narvaez and Kevan Smith combined to give the Sox top-three production from the position, but they gave away a lot of their gains with their difficulties receiving, blocking and throwing.
By one measure, the White Sox had the second-worst group of defensive catchers. By another measure, they occupied the cellar. In both cases, their closest neighbor was the Texas Rangers.
And the Rangers are the reason I tread this ground yet again, because they’re going to be fun to follow as a team trying to do something about it. They signed Jeff Mathis to a two-year deal on Thursday.
#Rangers in agreement with free-agent catcher Jeff Mathis on a two-year contract, pending a physical, sources tell The Athletic. Mathis, who will play next season at 36, batted only .200 with a .544 OPS in 218 PAs with the #DBacks last season, but teams value his defense highly.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) November 16, 2018
OK, let’s qualify that. There’s nothing particularly “fun” about signing Mathis. He’s a career .198/.258/.306 hitter, bad for the sixth-worst production in the history of the game among hitters with 2,600 plate appearances.
But Mathis will suit up for a 15th MLB season because of his work behind the plate. The framing numbers are there, but more specifically to his case, he’s regarded as one of the best game-callers in the league. The combination of metrics and reputation keeps him gainfully employed, and especially desirable among teams that seem to have hit a wall with their in-house catchers.
Let’s look at his last stint. Mathis joined the Diamondbacks on a two-year contract specifically for his set of skills:
“I think so,” manager Torey Lovullo said before Sunday’s Cactus League game against the Rockies at Salt River Fields. “There’s a calm and an easiness to his personality. There’s also an intensity and fierceness that he shows between the lines that only we get to know about and we see every day. That’s the combination I’m the most interested in.
“But then you throw in the ability to lead, the winning track record that follows him and his ability to catch. Let’s not forget that. This guy is a really good player. He gets credit for a lot of things outside of being a really good player and we’re looking forward to him showing that to the rest of that clubhouse.”
A lot of this would be ceaselessly mocked in the Fire Joe Morgan days, but sure enough, the Diamondbacks went from 93 losses in 2016 to 93 wins in 2017 before regression knocked them down to 82-80 this past season. It seems like Mathis lived up to his end of the deal to play his part in the turnaround. He didn’t hit a lick, but he helped pitchers plenty, including Patrick Corbin.
Diamondbacks left-handed pitcher Patrick Corbin has been adjusting his pitch selection, but he may have found some consistency elsewhere. Manager Torey Lovullo has liked the recent pairing of Corbin and catcher Jeff Mathis and looks to keep that going.
“I just like the way Jeff gets Patrick to do certain things at certain times,” Lovullo said on Tuesday. “(Mathis) shows confidence in certain pitches and helps him execute by showing that confidence.”
The Rangers are trying to capture the same benefits. If the White Sox made this deal, it’d be more exciting for what they’re trying to do than what they might actually get from a 36-year-old defense-first/defense-only catcher. One of these years, a team will find the reputation outweighed the usefuless, but until that happens, there’s no greater way to prove a desire to improve a team’s catching than to sign Jeff Mathis for multiple years. It’s worth checking in on this situation occasionally to see how the team most like the White Sox will attempt to benefit from his unique set of skills.
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In other things the White Sox aren’t doing, but may need to do one day:
*The Baltimore Orioles took their sweet time settling on a general manager — the GM meetings came and went without one — but they’re apparently going all in on the Astros model by bringing in now-former Houston GM Mike Elias. Equally significant — and maybe more so — is the report that Sig Mejdal, the Astros’ former head of analytics, is joining him to build an R&D department.
Combine this Bob Nightengale note …
The Baltimore #Orioles, who will soon officially announce Mike Elias as their new GM, also made Elias the highest-paid first-year GM in #MLB history.
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) November 16, 2018
… with Mejdal’s reputation, and it appears the Orioles are investing a whole lot of money in a whole new model. Dan Szymborski has never been happier with his favorite team.
The Orioles going after Elias/Mejdal makes me feel like I'm actually living in Rand McNally and I have to watch out for hamburgers trying to eat me.
— Dan Szymborski (@DSzymborski) November 14, 2018
*The Miami Marlins have been turning the page on the Jeffrey Loria era, first by dismantling the home run sculpture, and now by releasing a whole new aesthetic.
Uni Watch was able to identify what the blue-on-orange-on-black combination brought to mind — Lite Brite — and I wonder how muddy it’s all going to look in an actual baseball situation, but the hat logo is an improvement on the old one.
I like the new Marlins look.
It’s got a look. I definitely think it’s an improvement.
However, I’ll not forgive them for getting rid of the sculpture. In this house we respect audaciousness
The black alternates are a little too dark to make out detail, but I think that home uniform is nice. The blue ones, too.
I’ll get confused when they play the Mets.
The black is terrible. But I agree that I like the home and blue unis.
Jeff Mathis has made a career of looking up at the Mendoza Line.
they can’t all be Tyler Flowers
I can’t wait until we have robot umpires and pitch framing is no longer a thing.
I, for one, welcome our new robot umpire overlords.
So, The Yankees don’t want to put Gray on their 40 man roster. Tuesday is the deadline. So the question is , Where is he going?
Heyman thinks Grandal is likely to head elsewhere…Rejected the qualifying offer