After getting stunned by the non-tender of Tyler Flowers, I feel as though I'm back on track with the White Sox' thinking, albeit with some suspicion.
Salary: Navarro is making $4 million, fitting snugly in the pocket of salaries, $2.5 million to $4.25 million, signed by the other free agent catchers.
Playing time: You can deduce a possible playing-time share from their salaries, as Rick Hahn said the Sox wouldn't restrict Robin Ventura to a straight platoon:
"Whoever stands out is going to get bulk of the playing time," Hahn said. "It does line up at least on paper with Alex having more success against right-handed pitching and Navarro over the course of his career doing a lot of damage against left-handed pitching there is the opportunity for it to evolve into a straight platoon. But especially even Dioner’s ability to switch-hit, we are going to go into camp with an open mind and see how things evolve.
"We think there will complement each other very well."
Defense: Welp, here's the on-the-record assessment:
"We feel like from a run-scoring standpoint we are stronger," Hahn said. "And, frankly, (on defense) there may well not be that significant of a difference from where we were in 2015."
And this will be worth monitoring in 2016. Baseball Prospectus disagrees vehemently:
The problem is that, no matter how you line up these two aging backstops, they’re each less valuable than Flowers, and given both Flowers’ projected salary and Avila’s $2.5 million guarantee, there’s not much chance the Sox save any money in this tradeoff. They’re just voluntarily worse, largely because they decided to drastically prioritize offense over defense at the most important defensive position on the diamond.
So does the Bill James Handbook 2016 (which I will write about later), at least with Defensive Runs Saved:
And Chris Sale was alarmed enough to put in a call:
"At the end of the day, there's not a team in the world that needs to call somebody on their team to let them know what's going on," said Sale, who has become the face of the White Sox franchise. "I'm not saying you need to run things by me.
"Absolutely, 100 percent not. But it came out of left field. It's something like, 'Oh, man. Whoa.' It kind of catches you off guard a little bit. But yeah, we weren't yelling at each other. We weren't angry. We were just figuring out what was going on."
The one thing the Sox might be considering: Flowers will be 30 next season, he had knee surgery at the end of this past year, and, as a large catcher, his framing skills stand a greater chance of declining early. If he loses 15-20 runs of framing in a year like Jonathan Lucroy did in 2015 (and Yadier Molina a year before that), then he loses a greater share of his value than other catchers.
I don't think that's enough to give the Sox the benefit of the doubt, but it's one feasible factor that could make moot most of the pro-Flowers platform. We'll find out if the White Sox are being proactive against aging, or reckless with the one position that helped pitchers make outs on a reliable basis.
In other welcome news -- welcome mostly because it's a diversion from arguments about catchers -- Jacob Turner is also back on the 40-man roster after signing a one-year, $1.5 million contract.
The sequence of the Turner signing was strange. The Sox non-tendered him, then signed to a major-league contract for $1.5 million, which is above his MLB Trade Rumors projection of $1 million. But Turner is a strange case, and one we won't see much of anymore. He's one of the last players to sign a major league contract upon being drafted -- amateur players no longer have that option -- and so a prorated portion of his signing bonus is factored into the accounting for arbitration salaries.
In other hot stove news:
Zack Greinke is a Diamondback: That's a surprise, and a really fun one. It was supposed to be a Dodgers-Giants tug of war, but Arizona swooped in and signed him. That makes it harder to explain why the Diamondbacks told everybody Johnny Cueto rejected their offer last week, because the only benefit to leaking that news was posturing about how hard they were trying. No false hustle here, as the Diamondbacks signed their new ace to a deal reportedly worth six years and $206 million.
John Lackey is a Cub: For two years and $32 million, which would theoretically rule out a North Side return for Jeff Samardzija. Perhaps he'll head west as a consolation prize for the losers of the Greinke wars.
Jae-gyun Hwang is a Giant: But in the KBO, as the Lotte club received no bids from MLB teams for his services. The silver lining for Hwang: If he repeats his breakout 2015, he'll be able to negotiate with MLB clubs outside of the posting system.