White Sox pitchers and catchers report to spring training one month from now, and it’s still possible that the Sox could add one of each to the ranks. Some notable options for each position fell off the board this week, so let’s take inventory of who else is out there this winter.
Coming off surgery for a torn shoulder muscle, Corey Kluber threw a showcase on Wednesday in front of a couple dozen teams, then signed a one-year, $11 million deal with the New York Yankees on Friday. If only every free agent’s offseason were as tidy.
Of course, Kluber benefited from seeking a one-year make-good deal, which are moving at more or less their usual pace this offseason. It’s the bigger names in search of longer deals that have the winter all constipated.
To that point, Alex Wood also signed a one-year deal, landing in San Francisco for $3 million. Neither pitcher seemed all that likely to fit with the White Sox, so even when removing them from the list of available arms, plenty of intriguing names remain. In order of FanGraphs projected WAR:
- Trevor Bauer (3.8)
- Masahiro Tanaka (2.9)
- James Paxton (2.3)
- Jake Odorizzi (1.8)
- Rick Porcello (1.8)
- Chris Archer (1.8)
- José Quintana (1.6)
- Garrett Richards (1.5)
- Matt Shoemaker (1.5)
* * * * * * * * *
Likewise, Kurt Suzuki’s decision to sign with the Los Angeles Angels removes one plausible option from the list of backup catchers. Suzuki is pretty much a right-handed, lower-profile A.J. Pierzynski. He doesn’t offer any strengths on the defensive side, but he keeps hitting into his late 30s (.269/.328/.457), so he keeps finding good jobs.
The list of projectable catchers is shorter, and even heavier at the top:
- J.T. Realmuto (4.1)
- Yadier Molina (1.4)
- Wilson Ramos (1.2)
- Jason Castro (1.0)
- Tyler Flowers (1.0)
- Alex Avila (0.8)
And while Tony La Russa’s presence gives Yadier Molina a non-negligible reason to consider the White Sox, it doesn’t sound like that’s going to be enough of a pull.
Molina, 38, repeatedly has made clear his preference to return to the Cardinals. He’s seeking a two-year contract, but recently acknowledged with the sluggish offseason that if an appealing offer isn’t there he’ll consider retiring.
“Getting ready as always and God will tell,” Molina said in an interview with Cardinals broadcaster Polo Ascensio set to run Thursday at noon St. Louis time on La Vida Baseball’s Facebook page. The interview was done in Spanish. “If God wants me to come back, then I’ll come back. And if not I will retire happy with my head held high.”
(Photo by Erik Drost / Flickr)
Molina might be nice, the others on your list don’t really trip my trigger. If the W Sox decide to go internally (Collins, Zavala, Mercedes), I’d prefer they go with the best defensive catcher whom I believe is Zavala. And hope that the potent lineup can cover any of Zavala’s offensive weakness… as they were forced to do last year with Mazara and EE. The W Sox put a lot of cache into their pitching staff, it would behoove them to have a catcher that could help them. (Oh, how I wish they could have found a way to keep McCann). Collins may get one last chance to make it and Mercedes may be longshot candidate for occasional DH appearances. But Zavala should be ahead of those two, no?
The problem is that Zavala isn’t actually GOOD defensively; he just isn’t as awful defensively as the other two. But he would absolutely be in the lower tier of MLB defensive catchers.
Looks like Grandal better stay healthy unless a backup magically emerges. It’s unknown if Hahn looked into guys like Casali or is simply relegated to letting Collins sink or swim and keeping an eye out for in-season acquisition. It seems Collins may not have much trade value?
I get the thinking, but Zavala looked completely overmatched during his mlb cup of coffee. I think he fits well as a AAAA player behind glass in case of emergency.
Collins is either a catcher or he isn’t anything, so of the three “prospects” I’d rather give him first crack at back-up duty to finally see him prove what he is or isn’t.
Sadly, my money is on “isn’t” which is why I’d still rather sign a vet.
If they don’t want to play Mercedes defensively under any circumstances and only want to give him occasional DH appearances, they really don’t want him on their roster, and there is no point in continuing to hang onto him as a 28-year-old prospect.
If the NL does get the DH, the market for his hit tool will presumably increase, and maybe he could be traded for a veteran catcher if a team has a surplus.
Mercedes needs some love and respect. Not as a catcher, but as a DH. His numbers in 2019 were fantastic, better than Luis Robert in every category in AAA. He hits, hits for power, walks, and had a .310 average vs both righties and lefties. 17 homers and 63 rbi’s in 53 games. If Vaughn put up those numbers in AAA, people would be excited like he might be the next Pujols.
He was the best DH in their organization in 2020. Of course, Renteria made sure he stuck with Encarnacion past the point of any sensibility, rather than getting a chance to see what Yermin could do against big league pitching. Yermin might do well enough in a full time DH role. He would almost certainly be better than Encarnacion. Not betting the farm on it, but his numbers were outstanding enough in 2019 that he certainly deserves consideration, and is probably better than some dumpster diving ideas they are kicking around. He is probably closer to being an option for 2021 than Vaughn, simply because Vaughn has barely played in the minors.
It won’t happen, but imagine how fun it would be if the Sox signed Realmuto for a souped-up multi-year version of the 2020 catching situation. That would certainly make me comfortable with Yermin or Collins as the 3rd-string catcher/occasional DH until Vaughn was ready.
I actually considered this in my offseason plan: sign JT and you solve DH and backup C for years, then flip Vaughn and Collins for something.
I eventually decided it probably wasn’t the best use of money to pay someone that much to come OPS .820 at DH, but it would be fun.
Can’t recall this much interest in adding a backup catcher since the ill-starred Toby Hall….
A notable pitcher not on Jim’s list above is Adam Wainwright. He could munch innings with some not dreadful results. TLR reunion. A 1 year contract, probably cheap considering his age.
A pitcher I do like a lot in Jim’s list is Matt Shoemaker. He is gonna be cheap, and if he is somewhat healthy (big if), Shoemaker might be the next “Lance Lynn” steal. He is an above average pitcher that can’t find the way to stay out of prolong visits to the injured list.
Carlos Rodon’s projected WAR (1.1) is just a click below Wainwright’s (1.2) 😉
Is that Rodon’s projected WAR or innings pitched?
Since 2016, Rodon has pitched exactly twice as many innings as Garrett Richards! 397.1 vs 198.2.
I’m taking the under. On both.
If Yadier Molina is right, and he may be, then it might also be the case that God wanted Dioner Navarro and J.B. Shuck on the 2016 team. Aside: The New Orleans Baby Cakes, of recent memory, came to El Paso in 2018 and had a player hitting screaming line drive doubles off the outfield wall all night. It was J.B. Shuck! My hope is that the Alabaster Hose sign Castro or Flowers or someone before they are left with only the fragile Alex Avila. I do understand the arguments for our internal options, and see all the reasons for giving him at-bats and the possibility of proving themselves. But I would err on the side of more depth at catcher with a second veteran. You never know what might happen, good or bad.
What about J.A. Happ? He pitched well last year, is healthy and durable and is from Illinois. He could probably be signed for a very reasonable 1 year deal and give the kids time to develop.
I was going to say no, but since he’s from Illinois…
I read on MLBTR yesterday that the Sox had “expressed interest” in Martin Perez (projected 1.2 WAR) before he signed with the other Sox. That doesn’t mean much, but it confirms (based on confirmation bias) my belief that they are swimming in the shallower end of the swimming pool with respect to any additional SP additions, and that inclues Happ. The bottom of Jim’s list is probably the top of the range of what is possible, which it’s more like:
That fits with my theory that they really want the “in case of emergency break glass” pitcher are are perfectly happy to roll with Cease/Lopez as the 4/5 to start the year. I don’t like it, I don’t agree with it, but all signs point to that being the play.
I don’t think they’ll even talk to Bauer, so I’d like Odorizzi on a one year prove it deal. I think he’s a bounce back candidate and if it weakens the Twins, just an added bonus. Flowers would be my choice for catcher. Solid defense when he plays and cheap. Then my dream player would be Ozuna at DH. (I don’t think they’ll spend that much though)
Odorizzi is pretty much in the Grandal/Donaldson/Ozuna/Moustakas mold of players who could really benefit from a better platform year.
I feel bad for him. He would have gotten paid last year if he didn’t take the qualifying offer (likely 39/3 or better I think).
He’s younger than a lot of the other cheap, high upside plays.
Marwin Gonzalez please. Along with Leary, the Sox would have 2 of the more versatile utility guys in MLB. Infield depth is shallow.
Marwin was really good. In 2017. With the Astros.
Let’s see… what is the most “Sox” move here, let’s count ’em down:
7) James Paxton – Paxton is very good when he pitches which isn’t a ton, but good enough to not be on the Sox price range. Very unlikely.
6) Rick Porcello – Too consistent as he gives you innings and therefore you’ll have to pay up, thus no “value”. Not happening.
5) Jake Odorizzi – Odorizzi strikes me as a back end starter that had one really good year. A smart team signs him for a somewhat fair deal and turns him into something.
4) Chris Archer – Now we’re getting into range. Archer was once good but now isn’t… borderline “Coop will fix him” (back in the day) candidate though he’s still young enough and success isn’t that far back and might cost a little more than what the Sox want to do. Probably not happening.
3) Garrett Richards – He might be too banged up even for the White Sox. Richards is more of a “we have nothing to live for” signing by like Pittsburgh or Miami… but watch Oakland sign him and turn him into a 4 win pitcher.
2) José Quintana – Ahh an old friend who might have a fork in his back. The Sox FO is getting excited they might be able to a second year club option with no buy out.
1) Matt Shoemaker – NOW WE ARE TALKING! Talented arm who has an injury history but you can sell to the fans as someone you’ve had your eyes on for years and get him for a relative song for one year… and you end up DFAing in June?
Ivan Nova and James Shields remain available.
As silly as it sounds, I keep coming back to the fact that JT Realmuto for 6 years at $19m a year would be a really cost effective way to generate more wins on an already stacked team.
He and Grandal could split catching and DH straight down the middle.
Both of them would be able to focus extra hard on prep work with two of the five starters, and both of them would likely age through their deals better with the lessened workload.
It would make Vaughn extraneous, but we could ship him off as the headliner for a controllable starting pitcher like Castillo or Marquez.
That’s probably the more effective way to use our resources anyway, as elite starting pitching is more expensive on the open market than even top-shelf DH bats.
Marquez has an $8m AAV the rest of his contract, so that whole team would be pretty cheap.
It would also allow us to carry a slightly deeper bench, and it would insulate us against the fallout of inevitable catcher injuries.
Finally, another benefit would be that no other team gets to have JTR! Elite catchers are the rarest commodities, so having two of the top five on our team means that the Yankees, Twins, Astros, and Jays don’t get to have either of them. Come playoff time, that’s a non-negligible bonus.