Veteran catcher Maldonado inks 1-year deal with White Sox

January 6th, 2024

CHICAGO -- Veteran catcher signed a one-year, $4.25 million deal with the White Sox, which includes a club option for 2025, on Friday.

Infielder Zach Remillard was designated for assignment to make room for Maldonado on the 40-man roster, which stands at 40.

Under terms of the agreement, Maldonado will receive $4 million in 2024, with a $4 million club option for 2025 that includes a $250,000 buyout.

“The young pitching staff that the White Sox have, the pitching staff history they have, knowing how to work with young pitchers,” Maldonado said of what drew him to the White Sox, during a Friday evening Zoom. “And from the other side I would say, ‘That's a great lineup, a great team.’

“I know I can help. Whatever I can do to help those guys to win games, that's what's important to me.”

The 37-year-old Maldonado spent the last six seasons with the Astros after Houston acquired him in a midseason trade from the Angels in 2018. The veteran backstop owns a career .207/.282/.349 line with a 72 OPS+ across 13 MLB seasons with the Astros, Angels, Brewers, Cubs and Royals.

Long renowned for his superb defense and ability to handle a staff, Maldonado became the Astros’ top catcher across the past half-decade. Despite a .623 OPS in an Astros uniform -- that number dropped to .593 the last three seasons -- Maldonado was slotted in as Houston’s primary catcher due to his defense and success working with Astros pitchers. 2023 breakout rookie Yainer Diaz and veteran catcher Victor Caratini -- whom the Astros signed to a multiyear contract this offseason -- will handle catching duties for Houston in 2024.

Maldonado also worked for 74 games with manager Pedro Grifol in Kansas City during the 2019 campaign, when Grifol was the team’s catching coach. Maldonado played with Korey Lee in Houston, with Lee being acquired at the '23 Trade Deadline in exchange for reliever Kendall Graveman as one of the team’s potential catchers of the future.

“I got to be around Martín Maldonado, I got to learn from him,” Lee said this past September. “I got to see how he managed a pitching staff at that end. Learned how he communicated with pitchers, and it taught me a lot.

“I’m going to carry that further into my career and make it my way, but he taught me how to be a professional catcher over there in Houston. They knew how to win and I want to bring that over to the White Sox.”

This signing is sensible for the White Sox with a young pitching staff that now has another backstop to pair with Max Stassi, who was acquired from the Braves, and Lee. With potential turnover coming for a White Sox team headed by new general manager Chris Getz -- who might be tasked with moving frontline starter Dylan Cease -- there’s value in signing a veteran catcher who’s been a part of many winning Astros teams.

Lee, 25, impressed the White Sox with his September work behind the plate, but for his young big league career, Lee is hitting .100 at the plate. Edgar Quero, the team’s 20-year-old switch-hitting catcher ranked No. 81 overall by MLB Pipeline, will benefit from working with Maldonado.

The White Sox had strong interest in Maldonado prior to acquiring Stassi, and that interest clearly continued for a catcher with 202 plate appearances and 65 games worth of playoff experience, not to mention catching four Cy Young Award winners. Maldonado (8,663 2/3 innings) is joined by Salvador Perez (10,063 2/3), J.T. Realmuto (8,923 1/3), Yasmani Grandal (8,404 2/3) and Yan Gomes (8,242 2/3) as the only active backstops with more than 8,000 innings caught.

“I’ll be ready every day. In my 12 years, I never ask for off days,” Maldonado said. “As long as me and [Grifol] communicate, see where we’re at. But for me, I think I will be there as much as they need me.

“People talk about catching but I used to play first base, and playing a couple innings at first base I get more tired than catching. I think catching is more the mental art of the game that [can get] you tired. I don’t get tired. It’s more mental, how you navigate the lineup with the pitching staff.”