Here we are again. For what seems like the upteenth time this season, the Chicago White Sox find themselves in a flux after yet another injury.
This time it’s catcher Yasmani Grandal — probably the one player that the White Sox could not afford to lose, although this is a phrase that certainly has been used for previous White Sox injuries this season.
Grandal suffered a torn tendon in his left knee and was originally reported to be out for the next 4-6 weeks. That was until Wednesday’s announcement that the injury would need surgery — a status change that likely won’t affect Grandal’s timeline to return, but could affect his ability to catch regularly once he does come back.
In lieu of this, you can surely add catcher to the list of needs that the White Sox should address at the trade deadline. Catcher isn’t nearly as big of a need as second base or a third outfielder, but the White Sox should, and likely will, address it in some way by the end of the month.
Don’t expect the White Sox to make a splash at catcher — even if Grandal can’t catch on a routine basis through the remainder of the season; acquiring a big name (if there even is one available) at catcher wouldn’t be worth the cost considering the other holes in the lineup.
Here are three trade candidates for the White Sox at catcher. Between limited availability and production, Rick Hahn and the front office will need to get creative. Let’s see if they can do just that.
Isaiah Kiner-Falefa, Texas Rangers
Kiner-Falefa is one of the most interesting names on the trade market as the deadline nears.
The Texas Rangers shortstop is baseball’s latest installment of the super utility man. Kiner-Falefa won a Gold Glove at third base last season, has primarily played shortstop this season, and was the Rangers’ backup catcher in 2019.
Kiner-Falefa hasn’t started a game at catcher in almost two seasons, but that’s besides the point. For a team with multiple holes, Kiner-Falefa would be the perfect fit.
Although he’s fallen off recently, Kiner-Falefa is hitting .263 with nine home runs and a 2.6 WAR thus far in 2021. The Rangers will be among baseball’s biggest sellers at the deadline, with several players, such as Joey Gallo and Ian Kennedy, being top trade targets for the White Sox as well.
If the White Sox were to acquire Kiner-Falefa, he would likely play at second base. His glove plays anywhere in the infielder, but he would go to the most glaring hole first.
The White Sox wouldn’t be acquiring Kiner-Falefa to be the team’s full-time catcher. Kiner-Falefa would almost serve as an insurance policy for the White Sox considering the questions surrounding Grandal’s ability to catch when he returns.
As for the cost, Kiner-Falefa has three seasons of control remaining and has been a positive-WAR player in his three seasons for Texas, so he certainly wouldn’t be the cheapest option.
Jacob Stallings, Pittsburgh Pirates
It seems like every time we talk about hypothetical White Sox trades, the Pittsburgh Pirates are mentioned.
This is for good reason, as the Pirates — stuck in the cellar of the National League Central — have plenty of moveable pieces that would fill big holes for the White Sox.
Several names have been mentioned throughout the past month between the Pirates and the White Sox, including Adam Frazier, Richard Rodriguez, and Bryan Reynolds.
However, the best fit now might just be catcher Jacob Stallings.
Stallings is hitting just .226 with five home runs this season, but has become a fan favorite in Pittsburgh thanks to his reliability and timely hitting. Stallings is under control through 2025, but at the age of 31, his control won’t bring much value.
Stallings is a good pitch framer and has done a nice job of navigating the Pirates pitching staff — a staff that consists of a mix of young guys and veterans that probably shouldn’t be in the league anymore.
Stallings wouldn’t be the most flashy option. However, he brings the same value that James McCann brought to Chicago in 2019 — consistency and chemistry.
Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals
Somewhere between the categories of “totally impossible” and “written in the stars,” we find the option of Yadier Molina.
Baseball’s best catcher for the past decade-plus, Molina is nearing the end of his illustrious major league baseball career.
At 38 years old, Molina is still having a solid season, hitting .260 with eight home runs. Molina is on a one-year deal, but has not announced his plans past this season. Had Molina announced that this season will be his last, this deal would not be possible.
However, the Cardinals find themselves in a tough spot. They’ve underachieved to this point in 2021, and with the Milwaukee Brewers looking about ready to run away with the division, the Cardinals could be sellers for the first time in recent memory.
Could they part with Molina? It wouldn’t be the first time someone in Molina’s circumstance was dealt (see Ichiro, in 2012). The odds of this deal happening would likely hinge on Molina’s desire to compete in what could be his final season.
Molina has spent 16 seasons with St. Louis. The first eight of those seasons were spent with Tony La Russa as his manager. Could Molina be open to a reunion with TLR for one more ride? That’s unknown.
What seems like a guarantee is that the White Sox would jump at any opportunity to acquire Molina. Between his leadership, relationship with La Russa, and experience, there simply isn’t a better fit for the White Sox than Molina.