Showing posts with label George Kottaras. Show all posts
Showing posts with label George Kottaras. Show all posts

Friday, January 23, 2015

White Sox reunite with Jesse Crain; add Geovany Soto to backup catcher derby

We've been talking a lot this week about former White Sox players returning to the team for a second tour of duty. It's perhaps fitting the Sox agreed Thursday to a minor-league contract with former relief pitcher Jesse Crain, who was on the South Side from 2011-13. More on that in a moment.

The other interesting name on the list of Sox minor-league non-roster invitees is former Cubs catcher Geovany Soto. The 2008 National League Rookie of the Year has never duplicated the success he had his first season in the big leagues with the Cubs, but if healthy, he has a legitimate shot of making the Sox roster as the second catcher.

Soto, 32, was limited to just 24 games last season due to knee and foot injuries. He also was arrested on a marijuana possession charge. Obviously, these are not good things, but it's also true Soto is the most accomplished player among those competing for the right to back up starting catcher Tyler Flowers.

Here are the numbers on the four guys in that mix. We'll include Soto's 2013 season numbers, since last year was pretty much a lost cause for him.

Soto:
2013 with Texas:.245/.328/.466, 9 HRs, 22 RBIs in 54 games
2014 with Texas/Oakland: .250/.302/.363, 1 HR, 11 RBIs in 24 games
Career: .248/.334/..436, 92 HRs

Rob Brantly
2014 with Miami: .211/.263/.265, 1 HR, 18 RBIs in 67 games
Career: .235/.298/.325

George Kottaras
2014 with 3 teams: .240/.355/.600, 3 HRs, 4 RBIs in 14 games
Career: .215/.326/.411

Adrian Nieto
2014 rookie season with Sox: .236/.296/.340, 2 HRs, 7 RBIs in 48 games

If all are healthy, who would you pick of this group? I think I'd take Soto. Nieto was in the backup role for all of 2014 because of his Rule 5 status. Most observers would agree a year at Triple-A would be good for his development.

Brantly bats left-handed, which is nice, but he's never shown he can hit major league pitching at all. Kottaras is the most experienced catcher other than Soto in the group, but he's been bouncing around from organization to organization. He was only in the bigs for 14 games last season. Naturally, he had a two-homer game against the White Sox as a member of the Cleveland Indians, but his career numbers are weaker than Soto's, as well.

If Soto can stay healthy and stop smoking marijuana, he has a chance to come north with the White Sox this year.

That brings us back to the 33-year-old Crain, who was excellent in his previous stint on the South Side. From 2011-13, he appeared in 156 games and compiled a 2.10 ERA and 176 strikeouts in 150 innings pitched.

He was enjoying the finest season of his career in 2013 -- an 0.74 ERA and 46 Ks in 37 innings -- when his shoulder started to bother him. Crain went on the disabled list, and with the Sox languishing in the standings, he was traded midseason to the Tampa Bay Rays.

Crain never threw a pitch for Tampa Bay the rest of the year and signed a free-agent deal with the Houston Astros the following offseason. Alas, he never threw a pitcher for the Astros, either, as shoulder issues continued to plague him.

Now, he's back for another kick at the can with the Sox, the last team he pitched for, on a minor-league deal. Certainly, he cannot be counted upon with his injury issues, but he would be a huge veteran help to the Sox bullpen if he could somehow regain his form.

At the very least, we owe Crain a playing of "Welcome Back Kotter":

Friday, December 13, 2013

Scott Boras recently criticized the Cubs ... were his comments fair?

We can all agree the Cubs stink at the major league level right now. They've lost 91 games or more in each of the last three seasons.

Given the circumstances, you would think the Cubs would be at least somewhat active this offseason --especially since we're talking about a big-market team that presumably has money to spend.

But, the Cubs have been fairly quiet so far. Their only free-agent acquisitions have been backup catcher George Kottaras and situational left-hander Wesley Wright. On Thursday, the Cubs traded outfielder Brian Bogusevic to the Miami Marlins for outfielder Justin Ruggiano. Bogusevic was one of three left-handed hitting outfielders on the roster (Ryan Sweeney and Nate Schierholtz are the others). The Cubs made the swap for purposes of balancing things out with the right-handed hitting Ruggiano. A sensible move, but hardly one that figures to make a major impact on the Cubs' 2014 fortunes.

The rebuilding process on the North Side is dragging on at a glacial pace. Barring some unforeseen moves in the coming months, the Cubs seem to be tracking toward another 90- to 95-loss campaign next summer.

High-profile agent Scott Boras (pictured), for one, has had enough of the Cubs' methodical ways. Boras criticized the organization at the winter meetings this week, calling the North Side rebuilding plan an "all-day sucker."

“It (a lollipop) takes a long time to dissolve,” Boras said. “The idea is it's going to take some time for them to reach the resolve to say they are going to compete on all fronts.”

Boras went on to say the Cubs are acting like a small-market team.

“It’s just with major-market teams you see a little bit different approach,” he said. “This is more of a customary small-market approach, if you will. … The Cubs have the capacity to sign any player they want at any time. The question is whether it fits their plan and it's good business.”

Obviously, the Cubs don't feel that big spending this year fits their plan. Here are the questions I would pose: Are Boras' comments fair? Has this Cubs rebuilding plan dragged on for long enough? Isn't it time for this regime to start producing at least marginally better results at the major league level?

I agree with Boras, in part, and disagree with him, in part.

I think this year's free-agent crop is weak. I don't blame the Cubs for taking a pass on giving seven years and $150 million to Jacoby Ellsbury, and if I were them, I wouldn't give untold millions to Boras client Shin-Soo Choo either. The Cubs' choice to not spend big bucks in free agency this year is smart and prudent in my book.

What I don't understand is why the Cubs haven't been more active in the trade market. They have prospects to deal, and there's a front-end starter in his prime (David Price) actively being shopped. But I've heard and read little about the Cubs being involved in those discussions. Why not? The Cubs have the dollars to sign a guy like Price to a long-term deal if they acquired him. They seem lukewarm to the idea, for whatever reason.

It's also a little strange that Jeff Samardzija is still on the team, but hasn't signed a contract extension. I think the Cubs should either sign him or deal him this offseason. I'd trade him. The Cubs could fill two or three holes by unloading Samardzija. They might even be able to get a major league ready prospect in the deal, as opposed to the Class A types and reclamation projects they've acquired in some of the other trades they've made involving pitchers.


Boras, of course, wants the Cubs to spend big in free agency. They won't, and nor should they. In that respect, I disagree with Boras. But I do agree with his point that it's kinda silly for the Cubs to just sit on the lousy roster they have now and resign themselves to another season of misery. With the talent they've accumulated in their minor leagues, plus having a movable asset in Samardzija, I think there are some possibilities for them in the trade market that would allow them to improve their team both now and for the long haul.

Why should the Cubs intentionally field another 95-loss roster in 2014? Enough is enough. It's time to at least show some incremental progress. How many more times do fans have to hear about how good Jorge Soler is supposedly going to be in five years?

I've always said, if a GM is waiting for prospects, he's waiting to get himself fired. It's time for the Cubs to add some legitimate major league talent to their roster. On that point, Boras is correct.