I haven't been nearly as relentless as Jim has been about the Sox need to fill the backup catcher spot, but as each day ticked by this off-season, I've felt increasingly uneasy about the prospects of another year of Alomar behind the plate. Thankfully, we can all breathe a little bit easier today.
It's hard to get excited about signing a backup catcher -- He'll only get, what, 200 at bats? -- Yet, in many ways, I feel the much same way about the Hall signing as I did back in early '05 when the Sox signed El Duque. After two consecutive seasons (one and a half, anyway) without any production from the backup catcher spot, I was ready for the Sox to overpay for a warm body that should fit nicely on the backend of the roster.
The Sox were in an tough situation with Hall. He could have gone to Philly, where he would have received much more playing time, or maybe even NY to play in pinstripes. From the sound of Kenny's statements, he used the high number of lefties in the Sox division as a major selling point to Hall, which is exactly what I said he should do when I first brought up his name.
The money and years probably helped too.
Reports out of Toronto seem to indicate, thanks to Vernon Wells' new contract, Alex Rios is now on the block. The Jays are looking for a starter to toss into the middle of their rotation.
I'd love to have Rios, and have often brought up his name when preaching patience in the development of Ryan Sweeney. Rios experienced a bit of a breakout last season that was interrupted by the staph infection running through the Jays locker room. I expect him to continue to blossom, much like Jermaine Dye and Magglio Ordonez did after they posted breakout seasons in their age 25 seasons. Rios has so much untapped power in his swing, it just hasn't fully fleshed itself out yet. I have absolute faith that it will be coming very soon.
While I'd love for that power potential to fully be realized in a White Sox uniform, I don't think the Sox can afford to pay the price it would take to get Rios. There are plenty of other smart people around baseball who see that same potential. One of them will be bold enough to part with a major league pitcher for Rios' peak years.
The Jays may also be shopping Reed Johnson, who played in the same outfield as Aaron Rowand back at Cal State Fullerton. Johnson turned 30 about a week ago, and doesn't have nearly the upside that Rios does, but he also figures to come at a much cheaper price than Rios. If the Jays balk at trading the young, burgeoning slugger, they might be willing to make a low-ceilinged outfielder for low-ceilinged starter swap. Phillips or Haeger, perhaps?
Johnson, for those who don't already know, has some pretty good on base skills against lefties (.301/.371/.435 the last three seasons and .323/.422/.445 last year), and can play all three outfield positions. He's better than our current left-fielder, and would be a nice player to have around in case Anderson flops or as a platoon partner for the aforementioned left fielder in '07 (I don't think he's going anywhere) and Sweeney in '08.
Even Phil Rogers liked the Toby Hall deal. Of course, that was a day after he took a backhanded swipe at the Sox by saying "Rather than moan about the market, the Blue Jays worked hard to re-sign center fielder Vernon Wells, who was a year away from free agency." I guess he didn't get the memo that the Jays were shopping a soon-to-be perennial .900 OPS outfielder.