While the White Sox rebuild has been wildly praised throughout the baseball universe, one position the team has yet to address is catcher.
Chicago has top prospect Zack Collins waiting in the minor leagues, however some are wary that he will remain behind the plate. The team has showed interest in young catchers in the past, yet the White Sox have yet to acquire one. Perhaps Collins could be the future at the position, but more likely than not the catcher of the future is not yet in the White Sox organization.
Going into the 2017 season the White Sox will have a catching duo of Omar Narvaez and Kevan Smith.
Narvaez made his major league debut last season appearing in 34 games. He hit .267 with one homerun and 10 RBIs. He threw out just 8% of base runners in 2016. Narvaez is likely to enter the season as the starter, however he is an average MLB catcher on his very best day.
Smith also made his MLB debut in 2016, appearing in seven games. He hit .125 with no other counting stats. He did throw out 33% of base runners. If the White Sox don’t add a catcher then Smith will likely be the backup, however it seems probable that Chicago will add a backstop before the offseason ends.
Narvaez and Smith are not the White Sox catchers of the future. They aren’t even good enough to be catchers of the future. However as the team rebuilds, the White Sox aren’t yet willing to spend the big bucks on a luxury catcher.
One suggestion would be for the White Sox to add a veteran leader at catcher. This way it allows for the team to trade for a young backstop or let Collins develop behind the plate. With the White Sox expected to have such a young pitching rotation, that catcher could help him reach his highest potential. A veteran catcher may not draw crowds, but it better helps the White Sox facilitate their rebuild by letting their young catchers and pitchers develop at their own pace.
There are some decent targets left on the free agent market including Kurt Suzuki, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Chris Ianetta. However the White Sox could also look to the trade market to add their 2017 catcher.
MLB Trade Rumors recently wrote an article detailing three of the White Sox biggest needs. Among the position of needs was catcher. MLBTR wrote that while the White Sox should search the trade market rather than free agency, Matt Wieters landing spot could be of utmost interest to the team.
Wieters is the top remaining catcher on the market. MLBTR believes that when he signs there could be a domino effect in the White Sox catcher pursuit. In doing so, the site suggested three potential trade options at catcher for the South Siders.
The site wrote:
Free agency doesn’t offer much in the way of solutions, but the White Sox could benefit from Matt Wieters’ decision. If he signs with the Braves, for instance, the Sox would be wise to at least inquire about their former backstop, Atlanta’s Tyler Flowers. On the other hand, the Nationals could shop one of their well-regarded veteran framers – Derek Norris or Jose Lobaton – if they sign Wieters.
Tyler Flowers played for the White Sox from 2009 to 2015. He spent his first year with the Braves in 2016. Flowers may no longer be on the White Sox, but after playing for organization so long he must still have connections within the franchise. Those connections could make his transition back to the South Side much easier.
Flowers has appeared in 514 major league games over eight seasons. He has hit .232 with 54 homeruns and 183 RBIs. Flowers is known for his framing abilities and is considered one of the best in the league. That framing ability would help benefit the White Sox young starting pitchers.
Derek Norris was actually traded from the Padres to the Nationals earlier this offseason with the expectation that he would be the starting catcher. But if the team were to sign Wieters, Norris would become expendable.
Norris has appeared in 557 major league games with the Athletics and Padres. He has hit .233 with 54 homeruns, 223 RBIs and 25 stolen bases. Norris made the All Star game in 2014. The White Sox could hope he regains that All Star form and becomes a trade asset at the deadline.
Jose Lobaton would probably be the White Sox third option. He doesn’t offer any outstanding traits, but has been in the MLB for the past seven seasons. His veteran leadership could help the young pitching staff grow.
Lobaton has appeared in 340 major league games with the Padres, Rays and Nationals. He has hit .226 with 17 homeruns and 92 RBIs.
Any of Flowers, Norris and Lobaton is an improvement over what the White Sox currently have. Flowers provides one of the best pitch framers in the league as well as a player they’re familiar with. Norris provides the White Sox with not only a vet, but a catcher with potential bounce-back value. Lobaton is the weakest link, but is still miles better than Navraez and Smith. If nothing else he allows the team more time to find their catcher of the future.
The White Sox must focus on the long-term at catcher. However adding any of these catchers in a low-cost trade would give Rick Hahn ample time to find that catcher while improving the current pitching staff at their own rate. While fans expect the team to trade off their assets, perhaps trading for a catcher would be best for the present and the future of the Chicago White Sox.
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