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White Sox addressing need behind the plate

ARLINGTON, Texas — The adage you can never have enough pitching will forever be the case.

The same should be said for catching, a position the White Sox threw money at when they signed Yasmani Grandal to a franchise record $73 million contract four years ago but still didn’t have enough.

Dumping cash on a switch-hitting receiver with plate discipline, power and very good framing ratings looked like an aggressive move signaling serious Sox intentions to win with their young core of prospects.

But Grandal never started more than 76 games in a season due to injuries and his defense, not particularly good before he got to the Sox, was an issue. His framing ranking dipped to 39th this season as well, per Baseball Savant, and he’s 47th in defensive runs saved.

The Sox’ 16% caught stealing rate ranks tied for 21st in the majors, a figure for which pitchers are also responsible. Teams have attempted 90 steals against the Sox, second to the Guardians (93).

Seby Zavala, who turns 30 this month, ranks 10th in framing and 21st in defensive runs saved among catchers, but is batting .155/.207/.304 with seven homers in 66 games, compared to Grandal’s .250/.316/.380 line with eight homers in 88 games.

Perhaps it was the urging of first-year manager Pedro Grifol, a former minor league catcher and a major league catchers coach, that the Sox addressed the position with not one but two acquisitions in their flurry of trades that shipped out six pitchers and infielder Jake Burger before the trade deadline.

Edgar Quero, 20, came with left-hander Ky Bush from the Angels organization in the trade for Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez. Korey Lee, 25, came from the Astros’ system in the trade for Kendall Graveman.

Quero is the higher ranked prospect. Lee has 12 games of major league experience and is catching at Triple-A Charlotte, prepping for a likely promotion to the Sox this season.

Lee is playing again after getting over an oblique injury.

“You’re the captain back there, you are the quarterback, that’s what I’ve always wanted to be,” Lee said.

Playing behind Martin Maldonado with the World Series champion Astros in 2022 showed Lee how a catcher handles a pitching staff on and off the field.

“He taught me a lot,” Lee said. “I will make it my way but he taught me how to be a professional catcher and over there in Houston they knew how to win. I want to bring that over to the White Sox.”

The Sox have done a poor job drafting and developing catchers. They selected a hit-first catcher, Zack Collins, with the 10th overall pick in 2016. Collins is a career .185 hitter with 11 homers in parts of four seasons with three teams and when last seen in the majors, went 1-for-25 with the Pirates in 2022.

They used a fourth-round pick on Ole Miss catcher Calvin Harris in this year’s draft.

Rest for Robert, Jimenez

Luis Robert Jr. and Eloy Jimenez, the 3-4 hitters in Grifol’s usual lineups, were rested for a day game following a night game. Robert has played in 106 of 110 games. Jimenez pinch hit in the eighth inning.

The big hurt

Grifol saw the writing on the wall for closer Liam Hendriks, who had Tommy John surgery Wednesday, “as soon as he said ‘this really hurts.’  

“If anyone can play through pain it’s him. Never complains, always takes the ball,” Grifol said. “But this is just a hurdle, what he’s gone through in his life the last year, Tommy John is not going to keep him away from doing this again at a high level.

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