White Sox, Cubs have envious depth at catcher

They are hard to find.

It's difficult keeping them healthy.

Most are one dimensional.

Every major league team knows how challenging it is to get a quality catcher on the roster, including the White Sox and Cubs.

Good luck finding a more demanding position to play, in any sport, and more and more potential catchers are shifting to other spots on the field earlier in their careers to lessen the stress and wear and tear.

If there is baseball this season - the game has been shut down by the coronavirus pandemic since March 12 - the Sox and Cubs are going to be the envy of baseball with their ridiculous depth at catcher.

"A hallmark of a good team is having quality depth," White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said. "It was one of the things I talked about publicly perhaps of not being entirely there yet in terms of organizational depth at certain spots. Catcher isn't one of those spots. We've got two all-star caliber catchers."

James McCann was an all-star for the Sox last season, but Hahn didn't think twice about signing Yasmani Grandal.

An all-star with the Brewers last year and the Dodgers in 2015, Grandal joined the White Sox on Nov. 21, signing a four-year, $73 million contract.

McCann might have been a one-year wonder in 2019, but Grandal is a proven commodity.

The same is true of Willson Contreras, who has been an all-star for the Cubs the past two seasons.

"I think Willson is one of the best catchers in the game," said new Cubs manager David Ross, a former catcher himself. "I love Willson being in the mix, what he brings to the leadership side. Obviously, his bat is elite for a catcher. He's already been an all-star and he's won a World Series."

That's quite a list of accomplishments for a player that is only 27 years old, and health has been the only issue for Contreras. He was limited to 105 games last season by hamstring and foot injuries.

Like the Sox, the Cubs are deep behind the plate, and Victor Caratini emerged as a solid backup in 2019.

The 26-year-old catcher hit .266/.348/.447 with 11 home runs and 34 RBI in 95 games.

The Cubs added even more depth, signing Josh Phegley to a minor league deal in January.

Originally drafted by the White Sox, Phegley spent the last five seasons with the Athletics. In 106 games with Oakland last year, Phegley reached career highs with 12 home runs and 62 RBI while batting .239 over 106 games.

The Sox have Zack Collins, the No. 10 overall pick in the 2106 draft, and Yermin Mercedes waiting in the wings behind Grandal and McCann.

If baseball is able to resume, rosters are very likely to expand and the Cubs and White Sox are likely to each carry three catchers.

Like everyone else, McCann is just waiting for the day when it is safe to put the catcher's gear back on.

"That's the toughest thing and the toughest part about it, we don't have firm answers," McCann said on an April 10 conference call. "That's the frustrating part for everyone involved. It would be easy to sit here if we had a firm date, 'Hey, we're going to have a handle on this come June 1 so we can go to spring training, and plan on having a season July 1, whatever the dates would be.

"That would be different than the situation we're in, kind of a limbo situation. Everyone wants to get back as quickly as possible, but the biggest thing we've done well as a union and a league is step back and realize the current situation is greater than any one game of baseball. You're talking about life and death for thousands and thousands of people and as much as we love the game and want to be on the field, there are priorities and keeping people healthy and safe needs to be a priority."

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