The main positional question marks for your Chicago White Sox are all related to the infield. That certainly holds true for the bottom of the diamond, where the immediate future of the catcher position seems to be completely up in the air. So here's a look at all of Rick Hahn's options, both internal and external.
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After Tyler Flowers was a big-time flop last year, the White Sox finally called up red-hot Josh Phegley in early July from AAA Charlotte, and the 25 year-old impressed right away. Through his first five games, he hit three home runs and drove in eight runs. But after that, it pretty much all went downhill.
Playing in 60 more games, he finished hitting .206 with just four long balls and 22 RBI's. He also only mustered a .522 OPS and looked completely baffled by big league pitching (off-speed pitches in particular) on most occasions.
Phegley will already be 26 years old for the 2014 season and though he may still be the leading internal candidate for the job, if he does end up losing out, it'll be tough to see the Sox giving him another legit chance to become the franchise's trusted choice at the position.
We all know the story here. Flowers played nowhere near a starting MLB catcher level in his time throughout 2013. He had some terrible struggles on defense, though that was once thought to be the strength to his game, and his offense was just as bad.
Flowers logged 256 at-bats, but only hit .195, struck out 37% of the time (94x), and only drew 14 walks. He does have some good power (11 2B, 10 HR), but he seemed incapable of driving in runners any other way. And it's not like a .355 SLG% is anything to write home about, anyway.
With Flowers now recovering from a serious shoulder injury, I think the White Sox are ready to completely move on from the soon-to-be 28 year-old.
At this point it seems at least fairly likely that the White Sox will test the 'free agent catcher waters' due to their lack of viable options within the organization. Below we take a look at a few of the hot names swimming in those waters, starting with the most likely candidates.
If you're an MLBTradeRumors.com reader, you know that "Salty" to the White Sox is a very real possibility. They've been predicting it would turn out that way after the 28 year-old helped Boston win the World Series just weeks ago.
Saltalamacchia is good behind the plate and is a switch-hitter, though he's best from the left side. Last year, he hit .273 overall with 14 home runs, but held an even more impressive .294 line with 12 long balls as a lefty. Simply put, he can do everything on the field that the White Sox want, still has a lot left in him, and would bring a winning attitude over from Boston. While he may be the most likely external candidate, plenty of teams are vying for his services, so Rick Hahn is really going to have to want him.
UPDATE (12/3/13): With former south side star AJ Pierzynski signing with the Red Sox, 'Salty' becomes a much more likely option for the Sox … at least on paper.
At 34 years old, Ruiz is likely only going to demand a two-year deal. Though it may cost right around $10M per season, Ruiz would just be a great guy to have behind the plate for the south siders' young pitching staff.
Ruiz has proved he can hit for a good average, though his power won't often blow you away. Throughout his long career, he's only struck out in about 12% of his at-bats, which could definitely help offset that problem, which the White Sox may very well have again in 2014.
There really hasn't been much on the hot stove in terms of Ruiz-to-Chicago rumors, but hey, I think it is a sensible move that Rick Hahn certainly at least has in the back of his mind.
Though rumors of a potential return to the south side for AJ have been squashed of late, since he is going somewhere, the White Sox would seem to make at least a decent amount of sense. Pierzynski had another very good offensive season in 2013 while in Texas, and would be a way for the team to fill their lefty bat void. Other teams like the Phillies and Twins seem to be more interested than the White Sox, but after such a horrid 2013 campaign it could be a move that would please many fans, if nothing else. And if you're not going to go with a 'catcher of the future,' why not bring in a great lefty bat, clubhouse leader, and fan-favorite like AJ for a year or two?
This one is probably more speculation on my end than any other. Recently, reports surfaced that the Orioles are open to moving their 27 year-old catcher, who's only two years away from free agency. Maybe the White Sox could tempt them with a Hector Santiago or someone else – who knows. But Wieters is a switch-hitter who's smacked 67 home runs over the past three seasons, which would go great with Avi Garcia & Jose Abreu in the middle of the team's order.
For awhile, I was leading the 'McCann to the south side charge.' But already 29 years old and likely demanding a six-figure contract, I just don't think now would be the right time for the Sox to big high on McCann. You can get similar, if not the same, production out of the guys we've mentioned above, so it just doesn't seem likely that Rick Hahn is going to be up there bidding with the likes of the Texas Rangers, who seem to be the leading candidate for his services.
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