The Angels decided to get one final piece of business done Tuesday afternoon before breaking for the holiday weekend, signing veteran backstop Geovany Soto to a one-year, $2.8 million contract. The 32-year-old can’t be a platoon partner with Carlos Perez—they both hit from the right side—so he’ll likely fill the more traditional role of back-up catcher, stepping in when/if Perez struggles at the plate.
Soto showed tremendous promise out of the gate with the Chicago Cubs in 2008, riding a .285/.364/.504 slash line to the NL Rookie of the Year Award and a 13th-place finish in the MVP voting. Unfortunately, outside of a strong half season in 2010, Soto’s never really been to duplicate that kind of production at the plate. His .231/.321/.411 line in 2,000+ plate appearances since his stellar rookie year is still above average for a catcher, but nothing really to get amped up about. On the defensive side, Soto is right about average when it comes to throwing out baserunners (27%) and slightly above average when it comes to framing/blocking pitches.
The biggest question mark with regards to Soto’s work behind the plate—other than why his standard throw back to the pitcher is so odd, of course—is just how long he can man the position without his knees acting up. He missed 29 games in 2012 while recovering from a left knee operation (torn meniscus) and 95 games in 2014 while recovering from a right knee operation (also one of his menisci). Soto was more or less a full-time player before his knees gave out, averaging 118 games a year from 2008-2011, but has averaged just 64 games a year over the last four. This shouldn’t be an issue if Carlos Perez can carry his strong September into 2016, but if Soto is forced into a larger role it may become one.
If you’re keeping track at home, the Soto signing means the Halos have now checked off three of the six or so spaces on their offseason BINGO card. Shortstop of the future, utility infielder, and catcher are all locked in, leaving Billy Eppler with a little more than three months to find a left fielder, a third baseman, and some bullpen help. Soto will reportedly make $2.8 million in 2016, which leaves the Angels roughly $20 million under the luxury tax threshold. That’s a little tight if they’re hoping to reel in someone like Jason Heyward or Alex Gordon, but it’s not as though there isn’t money to free up elsewhere (see: Collin Cowgill, Hector Santiago). With a few of the lesser loose ends now tied up, expect an exciting Winter Meetings.