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Veteran catcher Martín Maldonado brings his durability to the Chicago White Sox: ‘I love to play’

Catcher Martín Maldonado worked closely with Pedro Grifol for part of the 2019 season with the Kansas City Royals.

Maldonado appeared in 74 games for the Royals before being traded to the Cubs that July. Part of Grifol’s duties at the time included coaching the catchers.

The two are together again after Maldonado and the Chicago White Sox on Friday finalized a one-year, $4.25 million deal.

“It’s always good when you have somebody you know from the previous years,” Maldonado said of the Sox manager during a video conference call Friday afternoon. “We got to spend some time together. And that was one of the easiest parts to making the decision.”

Reports of the deal surfaced Dec. 26. 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.

Maldonado pointed to an opportunity to guide young pitchers as one of the items that stood out.

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

Maldonado, 37, experienced plenty of winning during his last six seasons with the Houston Astros. He has played in 65 career postseason games and was part of the 2022 team that won the World Series.

He has a career .207/.282/.349 slash line with 129 doubles, 111 home runs, 361 RBIs and 349 runs in 1,119 games in his 13 major-league seasons with the Milwaukee Brewers (2011-16), Los Angeles Angels (2017-18), Astros (2018, ‘19-23), Royals and the Cubs. He slashed .191/.258/.348 with 12 doubles, a career-high-tying 15 home runs, 36 RBIs and 33 runs in 116 games in 2023.

Maldonado is best known for what he brings behind the plate. He’s the second catcher the Sox added this offseason after trading for Max Stassi in early December.

Maldonado joked the first steps to dealing with a new pitching staff is “you’ve got to know the names.”

“Just show them what I do and make them believe they can trust me, having conversations,” he said. “It could be from saying, ‘Good morning’ at spring training, just as simple as starting to build that relationship.

“It’s hard, especially at the beginning, but I think spring training gives enough time to build that up.”

Maldonado said the strong relationship with pitchers in the past comes from “my preparation and the way I care about the pitching staff, the way I explain to them why, the reason why I do this or why I do that.”

“I’ve been blessed. Throughout my career I’ve been working with a lot of great pitching staffs, and I always learn something from everybody, every time you have a conversation,” he said. “It could be between innings, it could be after a bullpen, spring training, it could be in the weight room. Wherever we have that conversation, just understand what they want to do and how you can contribute to their success.”

Since the start of the 2017 season, Maldonado ranks second among catchers in games (756), starts (730) and innings (6,320 2/3). He’s tied for second in assists (320), fourth in runners caught stealing (97) and catcher’s ERA (3.85), tied for seventh in fielding percentage (.995) and 13th in pickoffs (seven).

Maldonado tied for the American League lead with 116 starts at catcher in 2023. His 3.91 catcher’s ERA ranked sixth in the majors.

He’s proud of that durability. And doesn’t plan on slowing down.

“I love to play,” Maldonado said. “At that position, you’re never going to be 100% every day. I don’t think anybody’s 100% in baseball because of the schedule. But I like to play the game. I like to be out there for my teammates. I do a lot of stretching, take care of my body. I feel like the day that you don’t play, that’s probably the day you’ll do something cool. So I pretty much want to play every day.

“I’ll be ready every day. I never ask for off days. As long as me and Pedro communicate, see where we’re at. I will be there as much as they need me.”

In Friday’s corresponding move, the Sox designated Zach Remillard for assignment. The infielder had a .252/.295/.320 slash line with seven doubles, one home run and 18 RBIs in 54 games for the Sox in 2023.