Sox bring catcher Hall aboard
Free agent comes to terms on two-year deal with club option
CHICAGO -- At the conclusion of Saturday afternoon's conference call to announce the acquisition of left-handed reliever Andrew Sisco from Kansas City, Ken Williams hinted at another White Sox transaction soon to come.
"It will be considered more of a peripheral move by the public," the White Sox general manager said at the time. "We think it will be a big move internally."
This particular move became official on Sunday, with free-agent catcher Toby Hall agreeing to terms on a two-year, $3.65 million contract with a club option for 2009. Hall will receive base salaries of $1.75 million in 2007 and 2008, while the White Sox hold a 2009 option at $2.25 million with a $150,000 buyout.
Hall, 31, drew considerable interest around baseball after he was non-tendered by the Dodgers, a move brought about by the addition of Mike Lieberthal in Los Angeles. The Yankees reportedly had their sights temporarily set on Hall as Jorge Posada's backup, according to The Daily News. But the New York newspaper, referring to a person familiar with Hall's thinking, claimed he was looking for a job featuring more playing time.
That goal would make perfect sense for a catcher who was behind the plate as Tampa Bay's everyday backstop from 2003-05. But Hall eventually chose the White Sox, with whom he will play behind a starter in A.J. Pierzynski, who has played at least 128 games in each of his last five seasons.
"I had a great conversation with Toby to explain how we view his role, and he expressed how difficult a decision it was for him," said Williams, quoted in Sunday's press release regarding the signing. "He had a chance to go to other clubs that may have offered more playing time, but he chose the White Sox and we are a better team for it.
"His desire to play on a winning team and in his words, 'Wear a Sox jersey,' ultimately won out."
The addition of Hall provides a very strong one-two punch behind the plate for the White Sox. Hall appears to solidify a spot occupied by Sandy Alomar Jr., Chris Widger and Ben Davis over the past few years. Hall's presence also gives Chris Stewart further chances to develop at Triple-A Charlotte.
Splitting the 2006 season between the Devil Rays and Dodgers, Hall hit .259 with 17 doubles, eight home runs and 31 RBIs in 85 games. He batted .231 with eight long balls and 23 RBIs in 64 games with Tampa Bay, before he was traded on June 27 to Los Angeles, where he hit .368 with eight RBIs in 21 games.
Hall's .292 average against left-handed pitchers in 2006, not to mention his .274 career average against southpaws, should come in handy within the American League Central, which features top left-handers such as Minnesota's Johan Santana, Cleveland's C.C. Sabathia and Detroit's Kenny Rogers.
"There are a number of left-handed starting pitchers in the division, and we feel Toby will enhance our offensive attack against them," Williams said.
Having Hall on the active roster will also give the White Sox a chance to rest Pierzynski as the season progresses. Although Pierzynski expects to play regularly and said fatigue was not an issue during the course of 2006, his average dipped below .300 in the month of August when Pierzynski hit .228. He bounced back to hit .280 during the month of September.
The 6-foot-3, 240-pound Hall set career highs with 12 home runs in 2003, 60 RBIs in 2004 and with a .287 average in 2005, all with the Devil Rays. Hall has also thrown out 32.3 percent of attempted basestealers in his career (116-of-359).
"Playing against the White Sox in the American League, I was familiar with all that they had accomplished over the past few years and it will be an honor to wear the Sox uniform," Hall added. "Chicago is where I wanted to be."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.