You know an injury is bad when the White Sox respond to it immediately, rather than waiting a week to determine that greater action is necessary.
Carlos Pérez was on his way from Charlotte to Cleveland after Saturday night’s game, and the White Sox officially added him to the 26-man roster in place of Yasmani Grandal, who heads to the injured list with a left knee strain. In order to add Pérez to the 40-man roster, they moved Kyle Crick to the 60-day IL.
Grandal wrenched his knee on Saturday night while trying to score on Joe McEwing’s worst send in a season full of awful ones.
This one carried obvious injury risk as soon as McEwing started windmilling, and everybody will be lucky in so many ways if this is only a strain, rather than a tear that required a third knee surgery in two years.
(One benefit to the Sox moving on from Tony La Russa is that the Sox might finally move on from McEwing and Daryl Boston, both of whom have been around for three managers now. La Russa owns a pair of McEwing’s spikes out of idolatry, so it’s hard to imagine him being the guy to overhaul his staff.)
It seems as though the Sox might have a more detailed update on Grandal later today.
The good news is that Pérez is a worthy choice for MLB playing time. In fact, he was my choice to fill in at the MLB level instead of Seby Zavala when Grandal went on the IL for back spasms a couple of months ago. He’s hitting .257/.319/.446 in 91 games at Charlotte this year while maintaining his contact calling card. He’s struck out just 159 times over 2,014 minor-league plate appearances, a K rate of just 7.9 percent.
For a while, it appeared that Pérez might stall out in A-ball or Double-A because of a lack of supplementary offensive skills, but he came back from the pandemic tapping into more power. He hit 13 homers along with 23 doubles and a triple over 113 games in Birmingham in 2021, after hitting just seven homers over his first 307 games, ranging from the DSL to Winston-Salem.
Pérez then set a new high in homers this year with 17, which should be expected given that he plays half of his games at Truist Field. His strikeout rate, which rose to 10 percent in Birmingham last year because he could afford to sacrifice some of it for greater intent with his swings, is almost back to his career level (8.2 percent).
Defensively, he moves well behind the plate, and while his arm isn’t strong, he gets rid of the ball quickly. His framing numbers have historically been below average, and I was curious whether Charlotte’s move to an automated strike zone for part of the year would hurt his ability to develop that particular skill, but Baseball Prospectus has him up to average this year, for what that’s worth.
(During one of the Charlotte games I watched in Nashville back in May, I overheard former manager Wes Helms griping that Pérez set up too far behind home plate to get low-strike calls for his pitchers. Perhaps that’s been remedied.)
Add it all up, and Pérez is a fine third catcher to have in the organization, so much so that he might’ve been a Rule 5 draft candidate had it not been a victim of the lockout. He won’t be exposed to it this time around.
Postscript No. 1: As for the Pérez-Zavala decision, Zavala has earned his keep by hitting .279/.326/.395 over 41 games, although those numbers are down to .226/.286/.258 with 18 strikeouts over 36 plate appearances in August. La Russa says that Zavala is the starting catcher for the time being, but let’s see whether overexposure spoils those plans.
One benefit to going with Pérez over Zavala was that the Sox had and have the ability to option him down to Charlotte, whereas Zavala lacked options, and he’d also been previously outrighted, meaning that he could decline an assignment to the minors and choose free agency even if he somehow slipped through waivers.
The Sox opted for the guy with experience, and Zavala played well enough during Grandal’s absence to validate the course of action, but when Grandal returned on July 22, the Sox either had to carry three catchers, manipulate the IL to get all options through to September, or swing a deal. Rather than try to goose the system for six weeks, the Sox instead traded Reese McGuire for Jake Diekman.
McGuire is hitting .375/.382/.406 with Boston. Eleven of his 12 hits are singles, and he’s only drawn one walk, so it looks like he’s on a BABIP heater instead of experiencing some sort of fundamental transformation in his return to the AL East. But had they known that McEwing was going to cripple their catching depth, I wonder if they might’ve weighed their options differently, in multiple senses of the word.
Postscript No. 2: When Pérez makes his first appearance, he’ll give Marco Paddy a second feather in his cap this season.
Lenyn Sosa finally broke through earlier this year to become the first traditional international signing to reach the majors during Paddy’s tenure as international director. Pérez, a fellow Venezuelan, comes from even further off the radar, as he signed for just $50,000 back in 2014.
Here’s a reminder that Sox Machine supporters on Patreon can track Paddy’s signing history, and the progress of his international classes, in an exclusive post updated annually. Here’s how to subscribe to Sox Machine if you haven’t already.