The White Sox had a serious problem at catcher this year. They finished 29th out of 30 in the majors for wRC+ from the catcher position. That shouldn’t come as a surprise when you look at how the hitters shook out back there. Tyler Flowers was a pungent mixture of hurt and awful. Flowers was never likely to hit for much contact, given his swing and approach – but his plate discipline collapsed as well. 94Ks to 14BBs is awful. His power kind of held up, but an overall line of .195/.247/.355 is really unacceptable.
Josh Phegley tore up AAA all year, much to my excitement, but once in the majors he was completely helpless against right-handed pitching. The sample is small, but a .190/.213/.266 line against righties is hardly encouraging. Phegley showed some power against lefties, and there are a lot of reasons to think he deserves more of a shot than Flowers does moving forward. Perhaps with some time to adjust in the majors he can shore up his splits and get back to his good contact/good power ways of AAA. But seriously – his swing percentage in the majors was 55.1%. That would put him at the 11th-highest in the majors. Even though swinging at everything isn’t necessarily a death sentence, watch some of his at bats, and he is just visibly far too eager – coming out of his shoes, having decided to swing before the pitcher has begun his wind-up. Phegley matched his M.O. from the minors defensively, showing a strong arm, but spotty receiving skills.
At some point, Hector Gimenez played for the White Sox and performed a cruel mockery of good baseball.
This uniform doesn’t look right. (Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports)
There isn’t really any other internal help on the way. Kevan Smith has excited some, but I just can’t match it when you realize he’s 3-4 years too old for his league. Mike Blanke has gone from looking like, “Bat Only” to “Well, He Doesn’t Have A Bat Either” since he left Rookie Ball. Miguel Gonzalez has been a bit young for his levels, and somehow managed to scrap along and survive at AAA, but the overwhelming evidence is that he can’t hit (although I believe the consensus is that he can field pretty well). And uh…that’s about it.
As far as free agency goes, Brian McCann is the big name. This hasn’t escaped notice – look at any trade rumor site and you’ll see that $100 million is the initial figure being bandied about for his services. While he’d be an excellent fit on the field, unless the White Sox are really interested in dialing up their newly freed up cash into competing right away – and entering a huge bidding war to do it – this doesn’t make a ton of sense.
So…that brings us to a familiar face.
Pierzynski is once again a free agent, having posted another good contact, no patience, decent power season in a hitters’ park. He’ll be 37-years old next season, but provides a bat from the left side at a position of dire need. It’s hard to imagine him doing any worse than what the White Sox posted this season. One could imagine a world where Phegley and Pierzynski work well in a platoon, especially if Pierzynski is willing to try to give that veteran leadership he wishes he had last time. Perhaps the biggest impediment to such a move would be Pierzynski insisting on an inordinate amount of PAs to the detriment of Phegley’s development.
A.J. Pieryznski had no interest in being a mentor to Tyler Flowers when he was on the South side. Since his departure, he has made overtures in Flowers’ defense to the effect that Flowers would have benefited from more veteran leadership.
Pierzynski was paid $7.5 million last season. One could imagine a similar 1-year deal to bring him back to the White Sox in order to bridge the gap with Phegley until something more long term can be developed.
Trade is really the only other way to plug this gap, other than standing pat with what they have.
One of the big questions this offseason is what the White Sox are willing to give up to improve in the short term. But Pierzynski looks like he checks a lot of boxes for the front office – short on years, probably not much money required, filling a position of need, familiar to the organization, and very popular with the fanbase. If pressed, right now I would say Pierzynski on a 1 or 2-year deal for a moderate cash commitment is the most likely option at the catcher position.