White Sox 2016 Season Review: Grading the Infielders
C Dioner Narvarro
Navarro is a good guy. Okay, now that I’ve placed in that qualifier, we can move onto some critical analysis. Navarro is the one player who is not only walking home with a miserable grade, but his parents are also receiving an email. Oh, and academic probation starts tomorrow.
This was a puzzling signing from the start. I was a vocal proponent against Tyler Flowers the starter, but Flowers the back up had his pros.
Chicago purged Chris Sale‘s personal catcher in lieu of signing a marginal offensive upgrade. It was like hoping to replace your iPhone 6s with an iPhone7 but instead getting the Samsung Galaxy that blows up in your pocket.
Navarro accrued -0.4 fWAR, good for 41st out of 43 qualified catchers with over 200 plate appearances. He hit .207/.265/.322 on the season with very little power to offset that abysmal OBP.
Navarro was clogging on the basepaths, so his only way to make up for his ineptitude was how he performed as a backstop. Navarro quickly earned the nickname “Anti-framer” on social media, as he would actually catch borderline strikes and pull them out of the zone. He’d even make middle-middle pitches look fringe.
Considering Flowers was an artist in this area, the difference was night and day. This June FanGraphs piece from Jeff Sullivan digs deeper into the White Sox’s hidden catastrophe.
Essentially, Navarro’s anti-framing was kryptonite for an arm like Carlos Rodon who relied on getting lower strikes. It’s not surprising then that Rodon was at his best in 2015 when Flowers became his personal, framing-centric catcher. There was discernible improvement in 2016 as well, once Narvaez starting to get the bulk of Rodon’s workload.
So not only was Navarro anemic with the bat, but he was even worse defensively. Overall, he was about two-wins worse than Flowers per FanGraphs. Baseball Prospectus, which factors in framing, thinks it was more of a four-win disparity.
Flowers mustered a .270/.357/.420 (.777 OPS) line with the Atlanta Braves while Navarro was shipped out to the Toronto Blue Jays. The White Sox received minor league lefty Colton Turner. He was 25 years-old and had just made it to Double-A, but still held the designation of “living, breathing, professional pitcher.” For that trade alone, Rick Hahn should keep his job because the oft-mentioned “bag of baseballs” would have been an overpay.