After a slow couple of weeks with only Jose Quintana rumors to keep fans entertained, the White Sox suddenly made three minor league signings.
The only name you most likely would recognize is Giovany Soto, 33, the 2008 Rookie of the Year who started his career with the Cubs before bouncing around the league, making a stop on the south side two years ago. The Soto move is in line with what we have come to expect out of the Rick Hahn era. A veteran backstop on a one year deal while we wait for a young catcher in the minors to come up. Soto spent last year with the Los Angeles Angels where he hit .269/.321/.487 with 4 homeruns in 26 games. Knee injuries kept him out of the lineup for most of the year and he finally landed on the DL for good in mid-August. The Sox did not have any stable presence at the catcher position on the 40 man roster before signing Soto. This move gives the Sox a reliable player (who the team already knows) and there is very little downside to signing someone to a minor league contract. What makes this contract a little different than other veteran minor league signings is that there is a built-in team option the White Sox can pick up for 2018. If I were to surmise the reason behind this detail it would be that the White Sox hope Soto can bridge the gap to Zack Collins, the #10 overall pick in 2016, who has an estimated arrival date sometime in 2018. Collins’ bat is major league ready but the Sox hope he can stay behind the plate for his career and they do not feel a need to bring him up quickly at the risk of losing him as a catching option. (See the Cubs with Kyle Schwarber who was brought up quickly so his bat would help a contending team.)
The second player the Sox picked up this week was outfielder Willy Garcia, 24, who was designated for assignment by the Pirates on December 31, 2016. The 6-foot-2, 215-pound Garcia spent the entire 2016 season at Class AAA Indianapolis, batting .245 (113-462) with 30 doubles, six home runs, 43 RBI and 53 runs scored. According to White Sox Media Relations, Garcia is a career .257 (680-2,641) hitter with 79 homers, 367 RBI and 336 runs over seven minor league seasons after signing with the Pirates as a non-drafted free agent on April 26, 2010. He was rated by Baseball America prior to the 2015 and 2016 seasons as the No. 12 Prospect in the Pittsburgh organization and possessing the Best Outfield Arm prior to the 2015 campaign.
The casualty in signing Garcia was Jason Coats who was designated for assignment in order to make space on the 40 man roster. Coats, 26, appeared in 28 games with the White Sox last year, going 10-50 (.222) with one homer and four RBI. The Sox knew what they had in Coats after he tested the major league waters and even with all of the White Sox’ recent moves the farm system was still lacking in outfield talent. While no one is saying Willy Garcia is the next Mike Trout, he gives the Sox an option other than Avisail Garcia and Charlie Tilson. It is this humble writer’s opinion that if the rebuild is working come 2018/2019 expect the White Sox to sign veteran outfielders to supplement their young talent everywhere else.
The last signing this week was also the most interesting. On Friday afternoon the White Sox signed OF/3B Cody Asche, 26, to a minor league contract. Asche was non-tendered (simply put, not offered a contract) by the Philadelphia Phillies in December making him a free agent for the first time in his career. In 2014, Asche was the Phillies’ everyday third baseman where he hit .252/.309/.390 with 10 home runs and 46 RBI. With the emergence of Maikel Franco in Philadelphia (the Phillies’ new star third baseman) Asche was moved to left field in order to get regular playing time in 2015 and his offensive statistics were relatively similar to his 2014 triple slash line. While Asche’s bat never came around during his time in the majors, the White Sox are hoping a change in scenery and coaching can bring out numbers closer to what Asche has done in the minors (.297/.359/.491 in AAA). With Todd Frazier probably on the way out via trade, and Matt Davidson (the top third baseman in the minors) not living up to expectations, Asche might end up being a great fit at the hot corner. At the end of the day, competition brings out the best in players and spring training this year has three more players trying to show that they can get it done. These-under-the-radar moves often times can be the difference between a successful rebuild and a bust.