The White Sox announced a series of roster moves today, selecting the contract of catcher Seby Zavala and designating first baseman Yermin Mercedes for assignment. They also recalled lefty Tanner Banks. To make room on the active roster for Zavala and Banks, lefty Aaron Bummer was placed on the 15-day injured list, retroactive to June 9, due to a lat strain, while righty Davis Martin was optioned to Triple-A.
Zavala appeared in the majors with the White Sox in 2019 and 2021, getting into 42 games and hitting .171/.223/.343. He was outrighted off the roster in April and has been in Triple-A Charlotte, having a much better showing. He’s hit .282/.396/.535 through 41 games with the Knights, amounting to a wRC+ of 147, though with a 35.5% strikeout rate. He’s actually played more first base than catcher this year, though he’s likely needed on the big league club for extra depth behind the plate. Yasmani Grandal left yesterday’s game with hamstring tightness and will be unavailable for a while, even though he hasn’t been placed on the IL. Zavala and Reese McGuire will handle the catching duties until Grandal recovers enough to rejoin them.
As for Mercedes, this has the potential to conclude his tenure with the White Sox, a relationship that has not always gone smoothly. Last year, the Twins sent utility player Willians Astudillo to the mound in a game they were losing 15-4 to the Sox. Mercedes drew the ire of some unwritten rules fetishists by swinging at a 3-0 pitch from Astudillo and depositing over the fence for a home run. The Twins responded by throwing behind Mercedes in a subsequent game, which garnered suspensions for reliever Tyler Duffey and manager Rocco Baldelli. In the media dustup that followed, many White Sox players defended Mercedes, but White Sox manager Tony La Russa publicly spoke out against his own player and those who defended him.
Later in the season, Mercedes was optioned to the minors, which was followed by him announcing that he planned on stepping away from baseball, apparently posting his decision on Instagram before telling the team about it. However, it turned out to be a false alarm, as Mercedes quickly returned to the team in short order.
This year, Mercedes underwent hand surgery in March though was able to return and make his season debut in Triple-A in May. Through 25 games with the Knights, he’s hitting .230/.376/.426 thanks to a whopping 18.3% walk rate. All that amounts to a wRC+ of 120, or 20% above league average. Mercedes has always hit at every level, including the majors, though he doesn’t provide much value with the glove. Although he came up as a catcher, he’s gradually spent less time behind the plate, making 15 starts at DH this year and nine at first base, none behind the dish. The 29-year-old is in his final option year, meaning he could garner interest from any team willing to give him a 40-man roster spot. He could be stashed in Triple-A for the remainder of the year as a bat-first depth option. The White Sox will have one week to trade him or put him on waivers.