By Bruce Levine-
(CBS) The White Sox added some catching depth and maybe a little spring training intrigue on Thursday, signing veteran receiver Geovany Soto to a minor league contract. Soto played for both the Texas Rangers and Oakland A’s in 2014.
Soto hasn’t been able to replicate the offensive numbers he put up in his inaugural full-time MLB season in 2008 with the Cubs when he earned Rookie of the Year honors. Soto is a .248 lifetime hitter with a .334 on-base percentage and .436 slugging percentage. At 32, Soto has morphed into defense-first player behind the plate. For his career, Soto has thrown out 27 percent of runners attempting to steal a base. In 24 games played in 2014, Soto finished with a 43 percent caught stealing percentage.
The Sox are looking for a strong backup catcher who can push starter Tyler Flowers. Soto is well-seasoned and would be able catch every day if Flowers went down with an injury.
Last season’s backup, Adrian Nieto, will be the everyday catcher at Triple-A Charlotte to begin the 2015 season. Nieto was a Rule 5 pick from the December draft of 2013 (Washington property). In order to keep a Rule 5 draft pick from returning to his previous team, the selecting club must keep that player on the major league roster the entire first season after the pick is made. Nieto hit .236 in 48 games last season. He had never played above Class A before he was selected by Chicago.
Soto will battle a few other catchers who have been invited to spring training, including the well-traveled George Kottaras, who started spring training with the Cubs in 2014 and played a total of 18 games in Cleveland, St. Louis and Toronto. The fact that Kottaras is a left-handed hitter, while both Soto and Flowers hit right-handed, may be a consideration. Other than the incumbent Flowers, Soto’s overall game is superior to the other catchers Chicago will have in camp.
Soto was traded by the Cubs to the Texas Rangers in July of 2012. Prior to that trade, he was the Cubs’ starting catcher for nearly five seasons.