Saturday, May 25, 2024

Grading The White Sox Martin Maldonado Signing

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On Tuesday the White Sox signed catcher Martin Maldonado to a one-year deal plus an option. MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand reports that the deal is worth $4 million with a $4 million vesting option for 2025. 

 The 13-year veteran owns a career .207/.282/.349 slash line with a 72 OPS+. The White Sox mark the sixth team after stints with the Astros, Angels, Brewers, Cubs, and Royals. 

Maldonado is the third catcher that White Sox general manager Chris Getz has acquired this offseason, however, he may be the most impactful of the bunch. Getz’s goal all offseason has been to improve the White Sox defense. Adding Maldonado to the mix should help reinforce the team’s defense up the middle. 

Maldonado will be paired with another veteran catcher Max Stassi, who Getz acquired via a trade with the Braves. The White Sox front office had reportedly been targeting Maldonado even before they acquired Stassi. The pair figures to get the bulk of the work behind the plate, however 25-year-old Korey Lee, who was added in a deal that sent Kendal Graveman to Houston, will also be in the mix. 

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Clubhouse Fit

Maldonado is clearly not a long-term piece for the White Sox, but his presence in the clubhouse could pay dividends. Many believe Maldonado will become a coach after he retires. His former teammates have given him rave reviews about his ability to handle a pitching staff and call games effectively. He also has plenty of experience. 

The 37-year-old has racked up 8,663 2/3 innings behind the plate which is the third most amongst active catchers behind only Salvador Perez and J.T Realmuto. He is also one of just five active catchers to have accumulated more than 8,000 innings caught. 

After rumblings that Yasmani Grandal was “no friend of the pitchers” last season, Maldonado represents a nice change of pace for a young White Sox pitching staff. 

That experience could also be beneficial in helping develop Lee and Edgar Quereo, a 20-year-old switch-hitting who is the No. 81 prospect in baseball according to MLB Pipeline. The White Sox traded for Quero hoping he would be the long-term catcher of the future. However, scouts believe he needs to work on his receiving and game-calling ability behind the plate. 

Maldonado served as the Astros’ primary catcher for the last four and a half seasons. He has logged 65 games of playoff experience which includes 14 World Series games. In 2022 he earned a ring after playing in five of the Astros’s six World Series games against Philadelphia. The fact they kept him around despite his limited offensive production tells you all you need to know about what type of teammate he is. 

Maldonado will be a welcomed addition to a clubhouse that lacked leadership last season. 

Defensive Prowess 

Maldonado has made a living on his defensive prowess. In 2017, he won a Gold Glove award during his tenure with the Angels. His 11.4 career defensive WAR ranks as the 16th best among active position players in the MLB.

Notably, Maldonado topped all MLB catchers in assists in 2017, 2022, and 2023, alongside leading in league putouts in 2017, 2018, 2020, and 2022. In 2022, he recorded the highest Range Factor per nine innings among qualified catchers, boasting a 10.19 mark.

Last season, Maldonado ranked in the MLB’s 75th percentile in Blocks Above Average (3) and the 71st percentile in caught stealing above average. His 1.93 pop-time also ranked among the league’s top performers, showing a significant improvement over Yasmani Grandal’s 2.08 mark.

Holding on-base runners is something the White Sox have struggled with in recent years. Last season they allowed a league-leading 170 stolen bases. Maldonado figures to help bolster those numbers. 

While Maldonado’s overall defensive metrics have been consistently strong, there are some concerns. Statcast graded him as the worst pitch framer among qualified backstops and his caught-stealing percentage fell from 32% in 2022 to just 16% in 2023. That was roughly four points below the league-average mark. 

Offensive Struggles

While Maldonado’s defense is strong, his offensive numbers are ugly. In fact, he is one of the lightest-hitting position players in the MLB. The only season he batted above the league average was in the shortened 2020 season when he batted .215. He hasn’t hit above .200 since. 

The 37-year-old is fresh off a brutal campaign at the plate that saw him slash .191/.258/.348. These struggles at the plate are nothing new for Maldonado. In his last three seasons, he has an OPS+ of 58,70 and 66. 

According to StatCast his Batting Run-Value last season was -30 which was the worst among qualified hitters. His 34.2 percent strikeout rate was also in the bottom 2% of the league. Maldonado has been inside the bottom six percent in strikeouts in each of the last three seasons. Meanwhile, his expected batting average has ranked in the bottom 1% in each of the last three seasons. 

Maldonado has posted double-digit home run totals in the last three seasons with his career-high of 15 coming last season. 

The Grade

Despite Maldonado’s poor offensive showing his 64 wRC+ last season was still high than the 2023 White Sox catchers’s 54 wRC+. Statistically, he is an upgrade at the position even if the bar was set incredibly low. 

What makes Maldonado a good signing is the potential impact he could have on the White Sox clubhouse. Working with a young pitching staff and potentially helping mentor Lee and Quero make this a good addition for Getz.

It isn’t a flashy move by any means and it certainly won’t cause fans to start lining up to buy season tickets. However, it makes sense considering the direction the organization is going.

Grade: B+

2 COMMENTS

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TheresePeyton
TheresePeyton
Dec 28, 2023 9:30 am

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Last edited 4 months ago by TheresePeyton
TheresePeyton
TheresePeyton
Dec 28, 2023 9:29 am

it makes sense considering the direction the organization is going.

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