December 11: Atlanta is paying Stassi’s deal down to the league minimum, according to the Associated Press; they’ll send $6.26MM in cash. That amount also counts against the Braves luxury tax number, which sits at an estimated $263MM according to Roster Resource. As second-time payors in the second tier of penalization, they’ll pay a 42% tax on that money. Stassi will cost the Braves around $8.89MM overall.
December 9: The White Sox have acquired Max Stassi and cash considerations from the Braves in exchange for a player to be named later. Both teams have announced the deal. Per Daryl Van Schouwen of the Chicago Sun Times, the Braves are expected to pay for the majority of Stassi’s $7MM salary next season.
Stassi, 33 in March, spent just one day in the Braves organization after being acquired from the Angels yesterday in a multi-played deal with the Angels alongside infielder David Fletcher. Now, the veteran catcher is off to his third organization in two days, where he figures to have the opportunity to step into a regular role on the south side of Chicago. The White Sox lost Yasmani Grandal to free agency earlier this offseason and were in need of a veteran backstop to pair with youngster Korey Lee behind the plate in 2024.
It’s a need Stassi is more than capable of fulfilling. While the veteran missed the entire 2023 season, only the first half of his absence was due to the left hip strain that prevented him from being on the Opening Day roster in Anaheim last season. Stassi recovered from that issue midseason, but he and his wife revealed last month that the three-months premature birth of their son necessitated Stassi to step away from the game and attend to his family for the remainder of the 2023 campaign.
That said, Stassi is expected to return to the field in 2024 and has shown himself to be a quality big league catcher over the past few seasons. Initially drafted by the A’s in the fourth round of the 2009 draft, Stassi made his big league debut back in 2013 with the Astros but did not find a regular role in the majors until the 2018 season when he split time behind the plate in Houston with Brian McCann and Martin Maldonado. Stassi did well for himself in a backup role that season, slashing a respectable .226/.316/.394 in 250 plate appearances. While Stassi struggled through 51 games in 2019, prompting the Astros to trade him to the Angels at that year’s trade deadline, Stassi was given a more prominent role upon his arrival in Anaheim.
In 118 games between the shortened 2020 campaign and his first full season as an Angel in 2021, Stassi combined above-average offense at the plate (113 wRC+) with strong defense behind it to be the ninth most valuable catcher in the league according to fWAR. That strong performance led the Angels to sign Stassi to an extension, though that decision would prove ill-fated. As effective as Stassi was during those two seasons, he took a step back in 2022, slashing a meager .180/.267/.363 (63 wRC+) at the plate while posting framing numbers that were closer to average than the elite figures he had posted earlier in his career.
While the struggles Stassi faced in 2022 and his time away from the game in 2023 make it an understandable decision for the Angels and Braves to go in another direction behind the plate in 2024, it’s easy to see why the addition of Stassi would be intriguing for the White Sox. After all, Lee has less than 100 plate appearances of experience in the big leagues and, even if the club believes the former top-100 prospect to be their catcher of the future, will surely need time and assistant as he looks to transition into a new role as a full-time big leaguer. The addition of a veteran catcher such as Stassi should help with that transition, while also creating a substantial bit of upside for Chicago. Stassi’s contract includes a $7MM 2025 club option that features a $500K buyout; if the veteran is able to regain the form he flashed in 2020 and 2021, that $6.5MM decision would be a no-brainer to pick up and make for an attractive trade chip as the White Sox retool their roster with an eye toward the future.
For the Braves, the deal clears a portion of Stassi’s salary from their books while clearing an unnecessary piece from their roster. Atlanta already had one of the best catching tandems in the game with Sean Murphy and Travis d’Arnaud behind the plate, rendering Stassi as largely superfluous. In conjunction with the trade that brought Stassi and Fletcher to Atlanta in exchange for Evan White and the deal that shipped Marco Gonzales to the Pirates, the Braves have shaved roughly $5MM off their payroll since acquiring Gonzales and White as part of the Jarred Kelenic trade during the Winter Meetings while adding a bench piece in Fletcher who better fits the club’s roster than any of Gonzales, White, or Stassi.