White Sox sign catcher Avila to one-year deal
Free agent spent seven seasons with Detroit, was AL All-Star in 2011
CHICAGO -- Alex Avila and Tyler Flowers appear to be the White Sox catching tandem moving toward the 2016 season.
That's the fairly clear appearance, at least, as of Thanksgiving '15.
The White Sox agreed to terms with the free-agent left-handed-hitting Avila on a one-year, $2.5 million deal. Avila serves as a veteran presence both on and off the field, and he provides that left-handed/right-handed offensive flexibility for manager Robin Ventura with the incumbent backstop Flowers.
General manager Rick Hahn acknowledged that flexibility, but didn't get into specific playing time outlooks during a Wednesday afternoon conference call. Part of that reason stems from Flowers being arbitration-eligible, carrying with him the very small possibility of being non-tendered.
Flowers, who currently is healthy after offseason right knee surgery, ranks as one of the best pitch-framers in the game. He also is a favorite target of many White Sox pitchers, including staff ace Chris Sale. Flowers would seem to only become expendable if the club could trade for a young, sort of catcher-of-the-future type.
In Avila, though, the White Sox hit on their primary target.
"Obviously, we have some other offensive needs that we need to address around the diamond," Hahn said of bringing in Avila. "This just happened to be a market, the catcher market, that moved a little quicker than the other segments within the market.
"How the playing time will break down between the catchers at the start of the season, we're going to leave that to Robin. Hopefully, we provide him with some good options depending on that day's matchups."
Avila, 28, has played all seven seasons of his Major League career with the Tigers. He was limited to 67 games in 2015 due to a stint on the disabled list from May 8 to July 2 because of a bone bruise in his left knee. Avila batted .191 overall with four home runs and 13 RBIs. Even with this statistical dip, a far cry from his '11 breakout effort when he hit .295 with 19 homers and 82 RBIs, Avila was still able to get on base at a .339 clip vs. a .345 career number in that category.
Against right-handed pitchers, Avila has a career .251 average with a .358 on-base percentage. He's also a solid game-caller and pitch-framer, who lost his starting job in Detroit to James McCann.
"It's not as strong as when he was totally healthy a few years ago and hopefully not as strong as it will be in the next several years in his career," Hahn said about Avila's on-base skills and hitting right-handed pitching, adding that Avila came through all their tests Monday without restriction. "But there are some skills he does possess, even when he was struggling."
Avila was a teammate of White Sox closer David Robertson at the University of Alabama before being selected by Detroit in the fifth round of the 2008 MLB Draft. His father, Al, is Detroit's general manager, but after helping the Tigers reach the playoffs from 2011-14, Alex Avila now will be fighting against his former club in the American League Central.
Geovany Soto departed through free agency to the Angels. But with Rob Brantly and Kevan Smith on the 40-man roster, the White Sox have some catching depth.