Zack Collins’ option gave the White Sox an out

(Photo by Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire)

As we watch how Reese McGuire acclimates to the White Sox in a hurry, it’s worth noting a couple of minor roster machination that made such a trade possible.

Toward the end of August, the White Sox had to choose between optioning Zack Collins and Seby Zavala in order to make room for Yasmani Grandal, who had healed up from his knee surgery. Neither catcher had distinguished himself on either side of the ball, but it’s fair to say that Collins lost the job harder. He hit just .147/.310/.221 during Grandal’s absence while grading out as baseballl’s worst defensive catcher. Sending him down wasn’t really a debate.

The question was whether they’d bring him back at any point in September. Collins had spent the entire year on the MLB roster up to that point, and as Josh noted at the time, the impending roster expansion made it easier to retain his last option.

Speaking of Collins, the White Sox optioned him to Charlotte. That’s the key phrase because technically the White Sox could save an option with Collins if they call him back up before 20 days in AAA. If they don’t return Collins from AAA within that time frame, well, it certainly makes next year’s Spring Training for the White Sox 2016 first round pick interesting as he’ll carry no options.

Sure enough, the White Sox recalled Collins on Sept. 14, 19 days later, although not as a third catcher. It was a straight swap. Again, it wasn’t through-and-through shenanigans. The performances merited a switch, as Zavala was in a 1-for-22 slide, and while neither backup would play in October if Tony La Russa could help it, Collins stood a chance of coming off the bench and drawing a walk to extend an inning.

Such services weren’t needed, so the swap didn’t end up serving much of a on-field purpose. However, the preserving of Collins’ final option gave the White Sox one more recourse as they went to the wire in search of a backup catcher without such pronounced flaws, and the ability to send Collins to Triple-A was the driving reason the Blue Jays wanted him.

DUNEDIN, Fla.—The Blue Jays addressed their catching conundrum Sunday, dealing Reese McGuire to the Chicago White Sox for fellow backstop Zack Collins.

McGuire, 27, is out of minor-league options, and the Jays were considering carrying three catchers on opening day — like they did toward the end of last season, when rosters expanded — to avoid losing one for nothing.

This isn’t in the same spirit of service-time manipulation, because the White Sox could’ve kept Collins in Chicago April through October and been in the same position to trade him to a team more interested in storing him at Triple-A. It’s just fun to think about whether the White Sox would’ve bothered in a scenario where Zavala summons a little more of that three-homer magic. Given that we’re talking about the White Sox backup catcher situation, “fun” is obviously relative.

While Collins allows Toronto to buy some time in their catcher ranks for one more year, the 1-for-1 nature of the swap allows the White Sox to spin a first-round draft pick out of a dead end.

Collins had nowhere to go, and the draft-day doubts were the culprit. The White Sox were one of the few teams that thought he could catch, and even if some teams put him at first base immediately, there were concerns that the hitch in his swing would prevent him from being able to access his power, which in turn would make his renowned plate discipline mostly meaningless.

Maybe if the White Sox abandoned their defensive ambitions early and let him focus on hitting, perhaps he could’ve ironed out his bat path by now. Instead, he’s wandered into a professional no-man’s land, where his catching skills can’t support his bat and vice versa. At least the White Sox got a no-hitter out of it?

Anyway, if you judge the White Sox’s first-round picks by the success they contributed to their club, then Collins helped the White Sox go 0-for-3 from the 2015 and 2016 draft classes. He, Zack Burdi and Carson Fulmer are all on other teams and seeking any semblance of upward momentum.

But because McGuire and Collins are both 27, and McGuire has four years of team control remaining, the White Sox could still salvage that pick yet. Nobody envisions “defense-first backup catcher” as what they hope to get out of the 10th overall pick, but it’s probably the median outcome for that part of the draft. Look at the first round from that year, and only two of the top 10 picks are on solid ground.

It might be nothing to crow about, exactly, but it’s making something out of nothing. Given the talent elsewhere on the position-player side of the roster, the White Sox only had marginal wins to add. As long as McGuire stays healthy, he should be able to add a couple of those alongside the moral victory.

Take a second to support Sox Machine on Patreon
Become a patron at Patreon!
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

I wonder if that 2016 first round will go down as the worst in history. Not a ton of talent has emerged from it yet.


Next winter, in what should finally be a normal offseason, you can write about the best and worst first rounds of all time.


Not sure how it ranks – didn’t find an article on that, so I might have to crawl BBRef to check – but I did find this… Note that two of the top draft classes of all time were White Sox: 1998 and 1990…


Thanks for this!

Is there something out there that tracks WAR per dollars? I’m thinking recent history, and BREF gives WAR and salary info together for individual years so it can be done (taking plate appearances and innings pitched into account). I’m sure the front offices’ analytics staff generate something like this.


Well, if anyone can rework a swing, it’s a Blue Jays. Good luck, Zack.

Trooper Galactus

Maybe they’ll have brains enough to focus on that and not trying to get him to improve from being the worst catcher in the league to merely one of the worst.


Kopech throwing 95, breaking ball not biting, lots of walks. I think the most optimistic interpretation is that he’s not all the way built back up after his illness.


Last April he started and went 5 innings with no walks, 1 run, and 10 K’s. I hope we see starts like that from him sooner than later. He was great out of the gate in April and May, but his ERA was like 5 the rest of the year. Rodon and Liam have gushed about his stuff, I hope we see proof of it in 2022.


Yolbert Sanchez signed as a thin, glove-first shortstop. Now a thicc, bat-first 2B. This version might be more useful?

Last edited 2 years ago by jorgefabregas

I think so. Both of his Abs today were pretty good. He’s a little chunky, but apparently has shaped up some within the last several months. Maybe a little too much US fast food?


I love in Arizona, one of the great pleasures is seeing Don Cooper, Carson Fulmer, and Zack Collins, I’m shocked they’re all gone