Two years ago, Geovany Soto joined Tyler Flowers to form a perfectly adequate tandem behind the plate for a reasonable cost.
Then the White Sox blew it up in an attempt to upgrade their catchers’ offense and veteran know-how. The former never materialized with Dioner Navarro and Alex Avila, and if they added any of the latter, it was drowned by a torrent of missed strikes.
The circumstances are virtually identical to the first time Soto showed up:
Before the 2015 season: Joined the White Sox on a minor league deal after a knee injury limited him to just 24 games and 87 plate appearances in the AL West (Texas and Oakland).
Before the 2017 season: Joining the White Sox on a minor league deal after knee injuries limited him to just 26 games and 86 plate appearances in the AL West (Los Angeles).
Soto hit for the Angels when he played in 2016, posting a .269/.321/.487 line with five doubles and four homers. He just didn’t play much after mid-May. First, he tore the meniscus in his right knee on an elliptical machine, and surgery sidelined him until roughly around the All-Star break. He played a couple of games in July, but compensating with his crouch gave his other knee problems. Then he came back in August, and the surgically repaired right knee acted up on him again, sidelining him for the rest of the season.
Soto was able to avoid a knee relapse in his first tour with the White Sox, playing 78 games and faring well enough. Tyler Flowers handled the pitchers better, as evidenced by the numbers (even if you remove Chris Sale from the equation, Carlos Rodon and John Danks fared far better with Flowers). At least Soto provided a complement in the form of some thump, hitting .219/.301/.406.
If Soto can stay healthy this time, then he’ll likely make the 25-man roster to accompany Omar Narvaez or another young Sox catcher. That’s good news for this team in terms of MLB competency. Narvaez, with his 34 MLB games, had been the most experienced of any incumbent catcher in the organization. However, based on his work with the White Sox pitching staff the last time around, Soto might not be the kind of catcher who can get the most out of young arms, which looks like the more crucial part of the gig at this juncture.
Ideally, Soto fares well enough with the White Sox to make himself appealing to other teams toward the trade deadline, and one of the catchers the Sox snagged from Houston’s high minors (Alfredo Gonzalez and Roberto Pena) can make a case for an audition.
Then again, this discussion could all end up being hypothetical, as Soto’s knees don’t make him the surest best to survive spring training. For all we know, his path to the 25-man roster could be a circuitous one. Hopefully at some point, he’ll cross paths with another offseason acquisition and form a Giovanni Soto-Geovany Soto battery. It’s the least the White Sox could do for us.