White Sox need to move fast on getting catcher
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If White Sox general manager Rick Hahn is planning on making an upgrade at catcher — which should be No. 1 on his to-do list — he'd better get moving.
There has been as flurry of activity around the major leagues with catchers the past few days, and the Sox did sign Tyler Flowers to a one-year, $950,000 contract Monday night.
In reality, Flowers is destined to be the White Sox' backup catcher at best in 2014 after batting .195 with 10 home runs and 24 RBI in 84 games last season before having shoulder surgery Sept. 5.
In early July, Flowers lost his starting job to Josh Phegley, who got off to a torrid start but finished the year with a .206 batting average and 4 homers and 22 RBI in 65 games.
Hahn has continually said Flowers and Phegley still are young catchers with promising upsides, but the White Sox clearly need a veteran presence behind the plate if they hope to bounce back from a 99-loss season.
"Obviously, we have a number of areas where we need to improve, and we will explore all of them whether it's free agency or trade," Hahn said earlier in the off-season.
Hahn said trading for a catcher is more likely, and he looks to have a partner in the Tampa Bay Rays. On Tuesday, the Rays acquired Ryan Hanigan in a deal from the Cincinnati Reds, leaving them with three catchers. Jose Molina and Jose Lobaton also are on the roster.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, the Rays and White Sox are discussing a trade that would send Lobaton to the South Side. Lobaton played in 110 games with Tampa Bay last season and batted .249 with 7 home runs and 32 RBI. In the ALDS, the 29-year-old catcher hit a Game 3 walk-off homer against the Boston Red Sox.
In parts of four seasons with the Rays and San Diego Padres, Lobaton has a .228 batting average with 9 homers and 52 RBI.
The White Sox would seemingly benefit from adding a catcher with a much better resume than Lobaton's, but the market is quickly thinning.
Assuming they pass physicals, Jarrod Saltalamacchia is joining the Miami Marlins with a three-year, $21 million deal and former White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski is going to the Red Sox on a one-year, $8.25 million contract.
Other top free-agent catchers Brian McCann (Yankees), Carlos Ruiz (Phillies), Dioner Navarro (Blue Jays) and Brayan Pena (Reds) already have signed.
Before Toronto signed Navarro the Blue Jays declined to offer J.P. Arencibia a contract, making the veteran catcher a free agent who might interest the White Sox. Arencibia hit 21 home runs for the Jays last season but batted .194. His .212 career average and shaky defensive skills also are red flags.
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