White Sox

White Sox finding transition to new catchers a smooth one

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White Sox finding transition to new catchers a smooth one

GLENDALE, Ariz. — The White Sox haven’t broken in two new catchers in 11 years, back when A.J. Pierzynski and Chris Widger were brought in before the 2005 season. Since then, either Pierzynski or Tyler Flowers has been the team’s regular starting catcher, providing uncommon consistency for the team’s pitching staff.

The White Sox jettisoned Flowers and signed veterans Dioner Navarro and Alex Avila in the offseason, but pitchers said the adjustment to both has been quick and smooth.  

“It’s been great,” left-hander John Danks said. “Two veteran guys who’ve had a lot of success in the big leagues and have seen me a lot, so it’s an easy transition for me personally. Love having them back there." 

[SHOP: Gear up for the season, White Sox fans!]

Left-hander Jose Quintana echoed Danks' sentiment — even though Navarro is a die-hard fan of Barcelona, the El Clasico rival of Quintana's beloved Real Madrid. 

“I feel really good with them,” Quintana said. “They have a lot of experience in the big leagues. I think they can help this team. I feel really good with them.”  

Between them, Avila and Navarro have caught 11,827 2/3 innings over a combined 19 seasons in the majors. Both rate as good defensive catchers, though Statcorner.com had both as below-average pitch framers in 2015. 

There was a certain comfort level many pitchers on this staff had with Flowers that was disrupted by his departure. Flowers, who ironically enough is slated share time with Pierzynski again with the Atlanta Braves, was widely praised for his ability to handle the pitching staff — especially Chris Sale, who heaped praise on Flowers during his streak of eight consecutive games with 10 or more strikeouts last year. 

But whatever disruption that existed apparently was been short-lived. 

Avila said he and pitching coach Don Cooper had periodic conversations throughout the offseason to familiarize the ex-Detroit Tigers catcher with the repertoires and tendencies of his new teammates. And Navarro said he quickly learned about White Sox pitchers after arriving in Arizona last month — on Friday, he had left-hander Carlos Rodon drop his trusty slider and throw nothing but fastballs and sliders, something the 2014 first-round pick said was “awesome.” 

“I’ve been around so many teams for so many years,” Navarro, who’s on his seventh club, said. “One of the things I try to focus on in spring training is to get to know my guys, talking, sharing information with whoever. I just want to see what they’ve got. We don’t go into a game plan. We just want to see what they’ve got and see what happens. Right now is the time to find out what we’re made of and work on the things we need to work on.”

[MORE: Carlos Rodon shows just how good he can be for White Sox]

Whether Avila and Navarro represent a marked upgrade over Flowers and last year’s backup, Geovany Soto, remains to be seen. Avila and Navarro combined for 0.8 WAR on the Tigers and Toronto Blue Jays last year; Flowers and Soto were at 1.5 WAR (though it’s worth noting an 0.7 difference isn’t incredibly significant). 

Both Avila and Navarro have better on-base skills than Flowers, who has a career .289 on-base percentage. Navarro’s success against left-handers (career .775 OPS) and Avila’s against right-handers (career .781 OPS) could form a solid offensive platoon behind the plate, though. 

If the White Sox do see an offensive improvement from their catchers, the expectation about a month through spring training is that it won’t come at the expense of deftly handling the pitching staff. 

“Each team has their philosophies and way they like to do things,” Avila said. “At the end of the day, too, it’s just baseball. It’s the same everywhere. I’m not going to say it hasn’t been challenging. There’s a lot of new experiences, new faces, obviously new things to learn. But at the same time it’s gone very smooth.” 

Would potential bargains like Mike Moustakas or Carlos Gonzalez make sense for White Sox?

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USA TODAY

Would potential bargains like Mike Moustakas or Carlos Gonzalez make sense for White Sox?

The 2017-18 baseball offseason continues to be, well, the 2017-18 baseball offseason, even with spring training games being played in Arizona and Florida.

A bunch of names remain on the free-agent market, including All-Star players who thought they would be in for big multi-year contracts. But as teams continue to deny the wishes of guys who expected to get big deals, the suggestion that those players might end up needing to take one-year offers if they want to play during the 2018 season is becoming a more common talking point.

So with potential bargains to be had for some pretty big-name players, do the White Sox jump into the waters and try to lock up a potential future piece on the cheap? Though they aren’t expected to contend this season, the White Sox have been mentioned in a pair of recent reports surrounding a pair of All-Star position players: Mike Moustakas and Carlos Gonzalez.

MLB.com's Jon Morosi wrote last week that the White Sox are a potential fit for Moustakas, who has sat and watched as former Kansas City Royals teammate Eric Hosmer received a huge contract from the San Diego Padres. Moustakas set a new Royals record last season with 38 home runs but has yet to find a team.

The White Sox, connected to Baltimore Orioles star Manny Machado earlier this offseason, seem to have a current big leaguer or highly ranked prospect locked into almost every position on the diamond for the foreseeable future, but third base isn't necessarily one of them. Jake Burger was last year’s top draft pick, though there’s speculation he could slide over to first base. The team still envisions him as a big league third baseman, for what it’s worth.

Moustakas is 29 and already has seven big league seasons under his belt, including a pair of All-Star appearances and a pair of trips to the World Series, including the Crowns’ championship back in 2015. His 38 homers and 85 RBIs in 2017 were both career highs. He slashed .272/.314/.521, the final of those three numbers the best mark of his career.

Moustakas has rarely hit for average or reached base at too high a clip, though those recent power numbers would be intriguing at a hitter-friendly park like Guaranteed Rate Field, where he has 10 career dingers, 26 career RBIs and a .249/.308/.456 career slash line as a visitor.

Certainly Moustakas would be a buzz-worthy addition, and if the White Sox could get him for a good value thanks to this slow-moving market, that adds incentive to bring him aboard. A short contract would have even more incentive for the rebuilding White Sox, who would have the option to either sign him to a long-term deal or deal him away in a deadline deal depending on his immediate production levels.

But for fans hoping the White Sox will spend big on a third baseman in one of the next two offseasons — Machado is a free agent next winter, and Colorado Rockies star Nolan Arenado is set to hit the market the winter after next — slotting in an outside addition at the hot corner now could impact those plans.

Gonzalez is a completely different story, a three-time All Star during his 10-year big league career who is just three seasons removed from a 40-homer campaign in 2015. The 32-year-old Gonzalez also has a trio of Gold Gloves to go along with his 215 career home runs. FanRag’s Jon Heyman listed the White Sox as a possible landing spot for CarGo this weekend.

But his walk year in Colorado was not a very good one by his standards. In 136 games for a Rockies team that ended up in the playoffs, he slashed .262/.339/.423, all those averages way down from his usual level of production. And his power numbers plummeted to 14 homers and 57 RBIs after he combined for 65 homers and 197 RBIs in 2015 and 2016.

The good news for the White Sox is that down year makes Gonzalez far more affordable. Should he command only a one-year contract, the White Sox could take a flier, stick him in the outfield — which still has an unresolved spot with few strong offensive options for center field — and trade him should he bounce back in a big way. Or, at 32, perhaps he’s a guy the White Sox could opt to keep around should he prove valuable and the rebuild continues to move along ahead of schedule.

Gonzalez seems the less risky move at this point, as Moustakas could still be looking for a multi-year contract. But the White Sox have plenty of financial flexibility and flexibility in their decision-making should they add either guy and he proves worthy of a midseason deal or a long-term look.

White Sox prospect Micker Adolfo sidelined with elbow injuries

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USA TODAY

White Sox prospect Micker Adolfo sidelined with elbow injuries

PHOENIX, Ariz. — One of the White Sox prized prospects will be on the shelf for a little while.

Outfielder Micker Adolfo has a sprained UCL in his right elbow and a strained flexor tendon that could require surgery. He could avoid surgery, though he could be sidelined for at least six weeks.

Though he hasn’t received the same high rankings and media attention as fellow outfield prospects Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert, Adolfo is considered a part of the White Sox promising future. He’s said to have the best outfield arm in the White Sox system.

Adolfo had a breakout season in 2017, slashing .264/.331/.453 with 16 homers and 68 RBIs in 112 games with Class A Kannapolis.

Adolfo, along with Jimenez and Robert, has been generating buzz at White Sox camp in Glendale, with a crowd forming whenever the trio takes batting practice. Earlier this week, the three described their conversation dreaming about playing together in the same outfield for a contending White Sox team in the future.