Navarro, White Sox finalize one-year deal
Switch-hitting catcher spent past two seasons with Blue Jays
CHICAGO -- A first look at the White Sox free-agent additions of Dioner Navarro and Alex Avila behind the plate would seem to indicate a change based on an offensive upgrade.
Navarro's deal became official on Friday, for one year at $4 million, and incumbent starter Tyler Flowers was projected to make $3.5 million via arbitration through MLB Trade Rumors' calculations. Flowers caught every pitch thrown by staff ace Chris Sale over the last two seasons and worked extensively with prized young hurler Carlos Rodon in 2015. He also came up short with the bat.
But during a Friday conference call, White Sox general manager Rick Hahn indicated this switch at catcher was designed to have deeper impact.
"We wouldn't have made the moves if we didn't feel we were better all around," Hahn said. "We were clearly a team that scuffled to score runs in 2015, and as we've made clear since the start of the offseason, improving that was one of our priorities.
"Catcher was probably not high on people's list as the area of need, but that didn't mean in an effort to improve ourselves anyway we can, that we wouldn't pursue it. When the opportunity arose to add both Alex and Dioner, we feel like from a run-scoring standpoint we are stronger and, frankly, from a run-prevention standpoint that there may well not be that significant of a difference from where we were in 2015. Certainly I feel like we are more well-rounded from that position going forward into the 2016 season."
Hahn added that whoever stands out will receive the bulk of the playing time. But Navarro and Avila line up more on paper as a platoon situation, despite Navarro being a switch-hitter.
"We're going to go into camp with an open mind and see how things evolve," Hahn said. "It gives [manager] Robin [Ventura] and the staff more flexibility to play matchups -- whether it's at the start of the game or late game with substitutions."
Navarro, 31, was the Blue Jays' primary backstop in 2014, but he lost the job last season after the free-agent signing of Russell Martin. In '14, Navarro batted .274 with 12 home runs in 139 games; last season, he batted .246 with five homers in 54 games.
"I'm just going out there in Spring Training and try to win the job," said Navarro during the conference call. "I just want to play, that's the bottom line. I just want to be healthy over here and help the team win.
"My No. 1 goal when I join a new team is to get to know all my guys, especially the pitchers. I'm going to be spending a lot of time with those guys and trying to familiarize with whatever they like to do and I like to do and go from there."
This will be Navarro's second stop in Chicago. He played for the Cubs in 2013, when he batted .300 in 89 games, hitting a career-high 13 home runs.