HomeMLB RumorsWhite Sox To Sign Martin Maldonado

White Sox To Sign Martin Maldonado

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TODAY: Maldonado will earn $4MM in 2024, MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand reports (via X).  The 2025 option is a vesting option that would pay Maldonado another $4MM.

DEC. 26: The White Sox are in agreement with catcher Martín Maldonado on a one-year contract with an option for 2025, reports Jon Heyman of the New York Post (on X). Robert Murray of FanSided (X link) first reported the sides were near a deal. Financial terms for the MVP Sports Group client are still unreported.

Maldonado’s move to Chicago’s South Side officially ends a four-and-a-half-year run in Houston. It was clear the Astros were moving on from the 37-year-old when they inked Víctor Caratini to a two-year deal during the Winter Meetings. With Caratini on hand as an experienced option behind Yainer Diaz, Maldonado was left to look elsewhere.

A veteran of 13 big league campaigns, he’ll now join the sixth team of his MLB career. He reunites with former Houston teammate Korey Lee, whom the Astros traded to the Sox for reliever Kendall Graveman at this past summer’s deadline. The 25-year-old Lee hasn’t produced offensively in parts of two big league campaigns. He’s a highly-regarded defensive catcher, which is also Maldonado’s calling card.

Outside of the shortened 2020 campaign, Maldonado has never hit at an average level in the big leagues. He is one of the sport’s least impactful hitters overall. In more than 3700 career plate appearances, the right-handed batter owns a .207/.282/.349 line. He hasn’t approached the Mendoza line in three years, running a .183/.260/.333 slash going back to the start of 2021.

Among 226 hitters with at least 1000 plate appearances over that stretch, only Joey Gallo has a lower batting average. Maldonado has the worst on-base mark of the group, while he’s fifth from the bottom in slugging. That the Astros nevertheless relied on him as their #1 catcher on some of the best rosters in MLB speaks to how highly the coaches and pitching staff felt about his presence behind the plate.

For most of his career, Maldonado has indeed rated as an excellent defensive catcher. That was not the case last season. Statcast graded him as the worst pitch framer among qualified backstops. He only threw out 14% of attempted basestealers, roughly six percentage points below the league mark. That’s perhaps more a reflection of the Houston pitching staff than Maldonado, as Statcast ranked him 23rd among 81 catchers (minimum 10 throws) in average pop time to second base.

In any case, the greater appeal for Chicago’s front office and coaching staff is in Maldonado’s game-calling ability and work with a pitching staff. The White Sox are likely to cycle through a number of inexperienced pitchers in 2024. Dylan Cease is the staff ace, though it’s no sure thing he won’t be traded before Opening Day.

KBO returnee Erick Fedde is a lock for the season-opening rotation, while Michael Kopech is likely to get a rebound opportunity. Michael Soroka and Jared Shuster — each of whom was acquired from the Braves in the Aaron Bummer trade — could vie for spots. Rule 5 pick Shane Drohan will have to remain on the MLB roster or be waived and subsequently offered back to the Red Sox, while prospects Cristian Mena and Jake Eder could reach the big leagues at some point.

Maldonado will work with that pitching group. He can serve as a short-term bridge to catching prospect Edgar Quero, the headliner of last summer’s Lucas Giolito/Reynaldo López deal. The 20-year-old spent all of last season at Double-A. He could reach the majors late in the ’24 season while taking over as the primary option in 2025.

In the interim, it’s possible the Maldonado signing displaces one of the organization’s other catchers. Once the contract is finalized, the White Sox will have four catchers on the 40-man roster. It’s unlikely Chicago will move from Lee, leaving Carlos Pérez and Max Stassi potentially on the bubble. Pérez didn’t hit well in the majors or Triple-A last season. The White Sox just acquired Stassi from the Braves a couple weeks ago, but they’re not on the hook for money beyond the league minimum salary and didn’t surrender much (a player to be named later) to bring him in.

Image courtesy of USA Today Sports.


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