Off to an impressive start with Jose Abreu, the White Sox probably won’t make another big move in free agency, which starts at midnight Tuesday.
As general manager Rick Hahn noted last week, the team is likely to find more “robust” opportunities on the trade market. But it doesn’t mean the White Sox, who aren’t yet complete in fixing their myriad issues, have removed themselves as a possible destination for free agents.
After a 99-loss season where the offense and defense finished at the bottom of the American League, the White Sox have plenty of repairs left to get back into contention. Hahn plans to use every route possible to get back as quickly as possible.
“We’re not going to rule out any avenue,” Hahn said. “Obviously we have a number of areas where we need to improve and we will explore all of them whether it’s free agency or trade. (Free agency) is not anything we’re ruling out until we do our similar due diligence on some of the players that are available there.”
One area the White Sox might explore is catching. Neither Tyler Flowers nor rookie Josh Phegley distinguished themselves when given the chance to take over as the team’s starting catcher. Therefore the White Sox might venture into free agency to find a veteran presence to handle the bulk of the duties in 2014.
Brian McCann is the top free agent backstop available and Jarrod Saltalamacchia is the next best option.
Hardball Talk recently compiled a list of the Top 150 free agents and McCann is rated seventh on the list while Saltalamacchia is 17th, respectively. Cubs catcher Dioner Navarro is rated No. 67.
The White Sox have two free agents of their own, Paul Konerko and Gavin Floyd. Veteran and team captain Konerko is rated No. 80 while Floyd, who had reconstructive elbow surgery this season and is most likely out until May, isn’t on the list.
While McCann is a left-handed hitter and the prime option he probably doesn’t fit into the White Sox plans. The seven-time All-Star turns 30 before the start of next season and is likely in the market for a rather large and lengthy deal. McCann’s last two seasons haven’t come close to matching the previous four and the White Sox prefer to make a move for a player that won’t only impact them next year but in the long run.
That would seem to make Saltalamacchia a better fit. A switch hitter, Saltamacchia doesn’t turn 29 until May and is off his best season at the plate. Though he didn’t hit as well right-handed, Saltalamacchia had a .294/.350/.523 line with 12 homers and 49 RBIs hitting left-handed, which would help balance out the White Sox lineup.
While Saltalamacchia is not a fit, Navarro could be a possibility. Navarro — who had a .300/.365/.492 line with 13 homers in 89 games — turns 30 next season but has caught fewer games than McCann.
Others on the list include Carlos Ruiz (No. 35) and A.J. Pierzynski (No. 37), who fit the “quick fix” mold Hahn has talked about staying away from, Kurt Suzuki (No. 86), Geovany Soto (No. 91) and John Buck (No. 99).
Those could be some of the players the White Sox plan to target if they opted for a free agent rather than acquiring a catcher through trade.
“There may be a couple of opportunities to make modest upgrades in the middle part of the free agent market as opposed to the top but we will explore it all,” Hahn said. “There won’t be a free agent, premium or otherwise, who we don’t view as helping us, that we won’t check in on at least or at least have conversations on what it will potentially take.”