Omar Narvaez

Brewers acquire catcher Omar Narváez as replacement for Yasmani Grandal


Brewers acquire catcher Omar Narváez as replacement for Yasmani Grandal

The Brewers have found their replacement for catcher Yasmani Grandal, who left Milwaukee in free agency for the White Sox.

Thursday, Milwaukee acquired catcher Omar Narváez from the Mariners in exchange for No. 24 prospect Adam Hill (per MLB Pipeline) and their competitive balance pick. 

Narváez is one of the game’s better offensive catchers and posted a .278/.353/.460 slash line with 22 home runs in 132 games last season. However, he’s widely considered as one of the games worst defensive catchers (-20 Defensive Runs Saved in 2019) and pitch framers. Grandal, meanwhile, is one of the best pitch framers in baseball, so the Brewers will see a significant drop off there in 2020.

In addition to Grandal, the Brewers saw third baseman Mike Moustaskas sign a four-year deal with the Reds on Monday. Grandal and Moustakas were two of Milwaukee’s key offensive players in 2019, so they needed to replace that production somehow. Narváez fills a need offensively, and despite his defensive shortcomings, all it took was a low-ranked prospect.

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Sox Drawer Q&A: Can the White Sox become the Mariners' next trade partner?

Sox Drawer Q&A: Can the White Sox become the Mariners' next trade partner?

Let’s begin this edition of the Sox Drawer with an appreciation for the one and only Omar Narvaez, who the White Sox selected in the AAA phase of the 2013 Rule 5 draft (30 picks AFTER they chose catcher Adrian Nieto — remember him?). Five years later, Narvaez became such a hot commodity, the White Sox were able to flip him to the Seattle Mariners on Friday for All-Star reliever Alex Colome.  

This is MLB’s version of winning the Rule 5 lottery.   

How unique is Narvaez? FutureSox ran the numbers. In the last 15 Rule 5 drafts, there have been 583 players selected in the minor league portion of the draft. Forty-one of those players have gone on to reach the majors. How many have generated a 3+ bWAR in their MLB careers like Narvaez? Only 5 of them, less than 1 percent!

Alexi Ogando, Alejandro de Aza, Justin Bour, Richard Bleier and Narvaez. That’s it.

Narvaez deserves a ton of credit for breaking through and becoming a certified major leaguer. Who else helped him? Believe it or not, an instructional video featuring one of the greatest hitters in baseball history: Tony Gwynn. True story.

After batting .168 in April and May last season, Narvaez told me he started watching this old hitting video of the late San Diego Padres Hall of Famer. Gwynn said that one of the keys to his success was simply watching the baseball come out of the pitcher’s hand. Gwynn obviously had an incredible eye; that helped. This novel concept also helped Narvaez, who went back and watched the video again, used Gwynn’s method in games and in the last four months of the season, he slashed .315/.401/.502.   

I can’t say who will be the next Omar Narvaez to win the Rule 5 lottery for the White Sox, but I can answer your questions right here, right now in the Sox Drawer!  

Q: Trading four years of Narvaez for two years of Colome and then non-tendering Davidson and Avi (assuming they improve those positions) seem like indicators the organization wants to begin competing for the division as early as next year. Am I reading too much into these moves? — DJ (@DeepFriedStack)

CG: At first glance, it might seem that way, but according to Rick Hahn, that was not the reason behind the moves. Rebuilding or not, the White Sox really need to improve the back end of the bullpen. With Welington Castillo signed for one more year with a team option for a second and with Seby Zavala and Zack Collins waiting in the wings and eventually needing major-league time at catcher, the White Sox had to make some room behind the plate long-term. They sold high on Narvaez and acquired a premium arm in Colome to either set up or close games.  

I know we’ve seen reports about how active the White Sox might be this offseason. How active are they? Hahn won’t say, but on Friday he did explain what they are trying to do this winter in terms of free agents: making calculated moves that fit the White Sox long-term plan. 

“In this free agent market, there are potential opportunities to convert on premium talent that would fit along with what we’re trying to develop for the long term,” Hahn said on a conference call with reporters. “Usually, when you look at a rebuild when you’re entering Year 3 as we are, it isn’t necessarily the time that teams push ahead in the winter and try to advance things unnaturally. That’s not what we’re going to do. We’re going to stick with the long-term plan. But if in fact, there’s an opportunity to convert on unique talent that becomes available that fits that long-term plan, then yes, we’re going to be aggressive and fully explore it.”

The “unique talent” that Hahn describes at least sounds like Bryce Harper or Manny Machado. If the White Sox are able to sign or acquire someone of that ilk to a long term deal and they end up competing for a division title next season, that would be great. But making moves to try to win the division next year at the cost of losing financial flexibility further down the road is not the plan. Still, the White Sox lost 100 games last year. There’s a lot of improving that can be done, even if it’s in the short-term. Getting Colome for 2 years is an example of that.

Q: Grandal is number 1 for catchers in catcher runs saved the last three years. Realmuto is 2nd to last at -25. Grandal’s number is +39. Grandal also has a great OBP for offensive catching standards. With all the attention being centered around Realmuto, can the Sox sign Grandal? — Scott Zablocki (@mr_zablocki)

CG: J.T. Realmuto has 2 years left on his contract. Probably not enough time to part ways with precious prospects anyway considering the White Sox window. I don’t see that happening.Grandal is a free agent. On paper, signing him seems more plausible, but then you’re completly shaking up the catcher position. You then have to trade Castillo, and what about the futures for Collins and Zavala, who the White Sox still believe in? I’m not saying the White Sox wouldn’t do it, but it would definitely be a sudden left turn.

Q: The Mets made a deal with the Mariners for Diaz with the Cano contract attached. Do you think the Sox could get involved with helping them move the underwater Seager deal (potentially still useful for us) attached to Haniger? That would be a nice deal. I would move a non-Eloy for. —Dayton Cripe  (@daycri83)

CG: Getting an All-Star right fielder like Mitch Haniger would be great for the White Sox. He’d fit right in with the plan. But taking on third baseman Kyle Seager and his contract (3 years, $57.5 million) feels like a sunk cost the White Sox wouldn’t want to acquire. While Seager is incredibly durable (he’s played at least 154 games in 7 consecutive seasons), his offensive numbers continue to drop. Last season, he bottomed out at .221/.273/.400. Third base is like a Rubik’s Cube for the White Sox. There are many possibilities for next season and beyond, from Machado to Moncada to Yolmer to Burger to Arenado to Donaldson, etc. However, I’m not sure I see them solving third base with Seager.

Q: What do you think about...
1. Trading a “B” tier prospect for Zack Grienke. (White Sox not on his no trade list, 3 years left on deal)
2. Signing Jonathan Schoop, 1 year prove it deal to bridge until Madrigal arrives. 
3. Does delmonico get the chance to prove himself as a starter? — Kaz Daddy (@AaronKaczmarksi)

CG: As much as I like Greinke, he’s entering the danger zone for a starting pitcher. He’ll be 35 this season. I’d be willing to take a risk on him at 35, but not at $35 million a year. If the Diamondbacks will eat about half his salary, that would help, but Arizona will want a lot more than a “B” tier prospect. As for Schoop, he’s a bit like Avisail Garcia: All-Star in 2017, rough season in 2018. Garcia is one year older. If Schoop isn’t signed until late in the winter and the White Sox haven’t found a third baseman, maybe then you sign Schoop to a 1-year contract and move Moncada to third. Finally, Delmonico got a chance to prove himself last season, but unfortunately he got hurt and couldn’t build on his 2017 season. It’s tough to say at this point where he fits in next season. As the founder of the Nicky Delmonico Fan Club, I’m hoping he sticks around and gets another chance, even if it’s off the bench.

Q: On a recent White Sox Talk podcast, you said that the Sox should aim for Moustakas. I think that would be a total step backwards for the franchise. Do you really believe that would be a smart move for the Sox now!? — Orlando Quintana (@LandoJQuintana)

CG: Sometimes when you think out loud on a podcast, you later realize that you might have been wrong, or in this case, partly wrong. On Episode 176, I said that despite their attempts to sign Manny Machado and possibly Nolan Arenado or Anthony Rendon next offseason, the more realistic third base option for the White Sox might end up being Moustakas, because it’s not as easy to sign big-name free agents as it looks. I still believe that. But after thinking it over, I explained on the very next podcast, Episode 177, that Moustakas wouldn’t fit with the White Sox long term, because if they don’t get one of the premium free agent third basemen, Moncada will likely end up there. I can’t see them signing Moustakas long-term if Madrigal hits at second base and they have someone like Moncada who can play third. I can change my mind, can’t I? Thanks for listening to the podcast!

Q: How great is it going to be to have a Eloy, Pollock, Harper OF next year? — Michael Ricciotti (@Be_Like_Mike20)

CG: Can’t wait. World Series here we come!

Q: Let’s say the Sox don’t make any other significant moves by Opening Day. With the roster as it is now, what’s the Opening Day lineup, especially at RF and DH? — Bill (@hitless1)

CG: I think Daniel Palka is the DH. I have no idea who plays right field. To be determined.

Q: I want to know what’s on Rick Hahn’s mind. What’s next? — Mr. Rock Opera (@MrRockOpera)

CG: I’d like to know as well! Although I don’t mind the suspense. Hang in there! Winter Meetings are next week, by the way.  

Q: Who do you think is an underrated prospect in the White Sox system that people might be overlooking? — awkward standing klay (@klaymemeson)

CG:  One prospect you shouldn’t overlook is Micker Adolfo. I wrote about him last week.

I’ll give you two more:  Luis Gonzalez and Gavin Sheets. They’re ranked 14th and 15th in the White Sox system according to MLB Pipeline, so it’s not like they’re off the radar, but when people talk about the White Sox future teams, you don’t usually hear either guy mentioned. Sheets, the White Sox second round pick in 2017, is a left-handed first baseman who slashed .293/.368/.407 last season at Class-A Winston-Salem. At 6-foot-4, 230 pounds, he has the build to mash a lot of home runs (he hit 20 in 227 at-bats in his final year at Wake Forest), but the power has yet to arrive in the minors. If it does, look out. He’s one to watch this season. Gonzalez was drafted behind Sheets in the third round in 2017. He’s a grinder type who can play all three outfield spots. He hit .313/.376/.504 for Winston-Salem last season. I’m interested to see how both of them develop as the move up in the farm system.

Q: Two years ago was Delmonico, this year was Palka, who will the surprise breakout player be for the Sox in 2019? — Jake Horning (@JArthur)

CG:  That’s a good question, and a tough one to answer this early in the offseason. Matt Skole is a possibility. Get back to me in spring training!

Q: How long term is Moncada? do you see him being a long-term consistent, franchise player, or do you think he’ll go with one of these inevitable big time trades in the near future. — Kyle Schultz (@kyle_eschultz)

CG: Baseball can be a tough, unpredictable game. Trying to define who a player is and who he will become is very difficult, especially when you’re talking about a 23-year-old like Moncada who just completed his first full season in the big leagues. Despite his struggles last season, Moncada still had 55 extra base hits, that’s 11 more than Jose Altuve. When Moncada makes contact, he can do serious damage. He has the talent to become a franchise player who you keep as opposed to trade. Let’s see how he does in 2019. 

Q: Are you going to be reporting from the field again this year and if so, you need to let us know what games you are doing and come out to the tailgating! — Rob Landeck (@RLandeck66)

CG: Yes, I’ll be back on the field again, reporting for all the home games on NBC Sports Chicago. You tailgating?? I’m in!

Q: How many socks fit in the Sox drawer? — Brett Bauer (@DoubleB72)

CG: About 20.

And finally!

Q:  When will we be good? — Ryan Kelly (@rkelly1122)

CG: 2019 is possible. 2020 is more realistic. Better days are ahead!

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Why the White Sox traded a good hitting catcher for two years of a reliever

Why the White Sox traded a good hitting catcher for two years of a reliever

There weren’t too many detractors of Friday’s surprise trade that netted the White Sox reliever and most likely 2019 closer Alex Colome in exchange for Omar Narvaez.

That being said, there were a few Twitter-using White Sox fans sad to see the catcher go. Narvaez is just 26 (not to mention under team control for another four seasons), and with questions about the long-term future at that position, it’s understandable that losing a guy who led the team’s 2018 regulars in batting average and on-base percentage could sting.

But think back to a year ago what the two pieces of this trade were. Narvaez was the White Sox backup catcher after being acquired as a Rule 5 Draft pick in 2013. After the signing of Welington Castillo, who was at the time coming off a career year with the Baltimore Orioles, Narvaez was ticketed for the role of No. 2 catcher on a team that wasn’t expected to contend for a playoff spot. Colome was the major league saves leader, coming off a 47-save campaign for the Tampa Bay Rays. A year before that, he was an All Star and saved 37 games.

Talk about selling high.

“The opportunity to get a guy like Colome, with his track record and stuff/performance, was too good for us to pass up even at the cost of Omar,” general manager Rick Hahn said during Friday afternoon’s conference call.

A year can change a lot, but it didn’t change much in this case. Narvaez continued his quiet production, though with not much power. Colome continued being a dominant big league reliever, only seeing his save numbers plummet because he was dealt to the Seattle Mariners in May, a team that had Edwin Diaz, 2018’s major league saves leader, already installed at closer. Colome actually pitched better in 2018 than he did in 2017, his ERA improving from 3.24 to 3.04 and his K/9 shooting up from 7.8 to 9.5.

So Colome is a huge get for the South Side bullpen, a group that while young, interesting and focused on the future was previously made up of nothing but question marks. Ian Hamilton, Caleb Frare, Ryan Burr, Jose Ruiz. These guys could wind up the team’s relief corps of the future, but they have very little major league experience and will likely face to-be-expected growing pains throughout the 2019 season. Colome adds not only a terrific talent but some reliability, as well.

Colome is only under team control for another two seasons, perhaps not the long-term answer the White Sox could use as they build toward the future. But he’s just 27 years old and will provide them with a good if not great closer for 2019 and 2020, and perhaps an extension comes before the end of the current contract. Or they can turn him into long-term pieces at either of the next two trade deadlines, when contenders are always shopping for bullpen help. And if trades of recent vintage are any indication, they’re often willing to pay steep prices for it.

"Obviously (Colome) fits in well for the short term over the course of the next two seasons,” Hahn said. “How he'll fit in '21 and beyond, it's way premature to make that assessment. Obviously we can extend him at some point during his stay here or revisit it once he hits free agency. On relievers it's tough to project out on any of them, even the best, quite how they're going to perform three or four years out into the future. We're very optimistic about what he's going to bring the for at least next two seasons. If it makes sense at that point to extend him and have him continue to be part of this growing core into '21 and beyond, we'll certainly remain open minded to that."

Meanwhile, losing Narvaez can be seen as a bit of a bummer for the White Sox if only because offensive production is hard to come by at that position, as evidenced by the fact that even the biggest hopes for the White Sox future had their struggles there in the minor leagues in 2018. Zack Collins, the 2016 first-round pick who is most prevalent on those 2020 lineup projections, batted just .234 at Double-A Birmingham last season, though his on-base percentage was spectacular at .382. And Seby Zavala, who with no other moves this offseason would be the logical choice to backup Castillo in 2019, cooled off dramatically after his midseason promotion to Triple-A Charlotte, slashing just .243/.267/.359 with two homers in 48 games there.

But even with those numbers, the White Sox haven’t soured on their young catchers, and it’d be pretty darn likely that even following Narvaez’s 2018 season that Collins would be the pick as the team’s catcher when it shifts from rebuilding mode to contention mode. Even still, the White Sox could make an addition at catcher this offseason to backup Castillo, a surprising area of need after they let Kevan Smith go on waivers back in October because they had a seeming glut of big league catchers. From Hahn’s comments, the White Sox adding another else in a trade or free-agent signing sounds likely.

Point being, Narvaez might have played himself into the long-term plans, but the catcher of the future gig still seems Collins’ to lose, should his development continue as the team expects it to. So why not sell high on Narvaez and bring in a guy who could be the closer of the future -- or at the very least be sellable enough to bring in a something of the future?

"We looked at where our roster was going long term and the skill set we wanted out of that (catcher) position and we felt that long term that we were going to have better options,” Hahn said. “We didn't set out seeking to trade Omar Narvaez. We felt that in the end the value that Colome would bring to this roster going forward would be greater.”

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