I wasn’t among the crowd clamoring for Korey Lee to replace Yasmani Grandal after the White Sox acquired him in the Kendall Graveman trade. The White Sox traded for Lee while he was recovering from an oblique strain, so it made sense to wait until he proved himself fully healthy and regained his timing.
He appears to have done the former, but I’m not convinced about the latter. He struck out 22 times in his first 55 plate appearances in Charlotte. He’s done so against one extra-base hit, so it’s not like he’s absorbing the downside of an all-or-nothing approach. He’s also done so against just three walks, so it’s not like he’s intentional about his pitch selection and deep counts backfire against him. There’s just a lot of swinging and missing — or swinging and mis-hitting — going on.
Nevertheless, we can refer to Lee’s Charlotte experience in past tense for the time being, because the White Sox called him up to Chicago. He’s not replacing Grandal, but Carlos Pérez, who returns to Triple-A.
The White Sox’s continued disregard for Pérez is strange, especially since he’d actually been hitting in August. He’d been 5-for-14 with two doubles over six games this month, and 5-for-11 in games he started. He makes enough contact to have those kinds of hot streaks, but perhaps the Sox don’t like the other parts of his game enough to let him get on BABIP rolls.
Lee offers a stronger arm and a lot more speed — he might be the White Sox’s fastest catcher since Ray Schalk — but if his recent form hangs around, his plate appearances aren’t going to be all that promising. (As for his receiving, it’s hard to judge in a small sample because half of Charlotte’s games are determined by ABS.)
In defense of the decision, there may never be a perfect time to call up Lee. The season is over in a month, the Sox have two other catchers on the 40-man under team control next year, and Edgar Quero is meeting the hype in Birmingham after coming over from Anaheim in the Lucas Giolito trade. The White Sox may want to take the longest possible look at Lee to understand what he might have to offer the 2024 team, even if the early returns aren’t likely to be successful.
Then again, that’s kinda what I thought the Sox were doing with Pérez, but he’s made just four starts behind the plate over three different stints. The White Sox have been reluctant to look at the future beyond Grandal, so if Lee’s the one that ultimately prompts them to turn the page, then Lee it is, ready or not.