The White Sox have added a veteran to their 2017 catching mix as Geovany Soto agreed to return on a minor league deal on Thursday, a baseball source said.
Soto — who hit .269/.321/.487 with four home runs in 86 plate appearances for the Los Angeles Angels last season — previously played in 78 games for the White Sox in 2015.
With the organization’s lack of experienced options behind the plate, the veteran catcher, an ex-Cub and the 2008 National League Rookie of the Year, has a good chance to make the club’s Opening Day roster.
Soto hit .219/.301/.406 with nine home runs and 21 RBIs in 210 plate appearances for the 2015 club when he split playing time with Tyler Flowers. Both catchers were allowed to depart after that season, and the White Sox signed free agents Dioner Navarro and Alex Avila with the hope they’d offer the team more offensive production.
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The team’s catchers both struggled in 2016, and Navarro was traded to Toronto in late August while injuries limited Avila to 57 games. Avila’s disabled list trips opened up playing time for rookie Omar Narvaez, who caught 34 games and showed promise.
Avila returned to the Detroit Tigers on a one-year contract last month, leaving Narvaez and Kevan Smith, who caught seven games last season, as the only catchers with big league experience on the 40-man roster.
While the White Sox have identified 2016 first-round pick Zack Collins as their catcher of the future, he’s likely to spend all of 2017 in the minors. With the team now in a rebuild, the plan is to give Collins every chance to improve his catching skills. The 2016 Johnny Bench Award winner spent most of the 2016 Arizona Fall League catching bullpen sessions in an attempt to improve behind the plate. He’s expected to start the season at Single-A Winston-Salem.
The Score's Bruce Levine first reported that Soto signed with the White Sox.