2010-2011 Offseason: The catcher gap

I have begun churning out my first projections for 2011, and here’s what I get for the catchers I can project:

Name AB HR RBI Avg OBP SLG wOBA
Victor Martinez 464 15 76 0.289 0.359 0.458 0.366
Jarrod Saltalamacchia 259 7 32 0.242 0.320 0.388 0.321
Dusty Brown 218 5 28 0.243 0.321 0.380 0.321
Jason Varitek 340 11 41 0.222 0.310 0.380 0.314

I don’t think I need to comment here. The dropoff from Victor Martinez to anyone else is precipitous, and that’s putting it lightly. Not only is Jason Varitek not looking like an everyday option, he’s looking worse than our other backup options, so I really don’t expect the Sox to sign him out of sentimentality.

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2010-2011 Offseason: Catcher

With the offseason coming up soon, we need to begin analyzing what we already have in place for 2011 and where we could make improvements. Here’s a look at our situation at catcher.

Without a doubt, this is the most worrisome position for us this offseason. Victor Martinez is a potential free agent, and entering his age 32 season, the Sox are reluctant to commit the money and years to sign him (perhaps as much as 4 years, $60M). With his certain Type A status, there’s even less incentive for the Red Sox to outbid another aggressive team for Martinez.┬áMartinez has indicated a desire to stay, but also to continue catching for the duration of his next deal (which the Sox are not on board with, if their two-year offer to him is any indication). However, the loss of a team leader and 4 WAR player is not going to be easy to any team to absorb. And with the essential role the catcher plays, you’ll need a familiar face somewhere on the roster.

Also a free agent this offseason is team captain Jason Varitek, who entering his age 39 season and with his declining skillset is even less desirable of a signing than Martinez. Varitek started the year strong, but quickly got injured and seemed to run out of gas this season. Tek wants to retire as a Red Sox, and the team would like to oblige, but not at the cost of a bloated contract and a wasted roster spot.

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2009 Offseason: Winter Meetings underway

Theo Epstein and his cohort have arrived in Las Vegas, and are taking part in the GM Winter Meetings for the next three days. Is there something big in the works? All the signs point to a pretty big free agent signing, and I suspect it will be a young starting pitcher.

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2008 Offseason: The Texas catchers

Much has been made of the catching surplus of the Texas Rangers this offseason, and they have announced that they are open to dealing one of them this offseason in return for a package centered around a top-of-the-rotation pitching prospect. This is quite understandable, given the lack of catching talent around the League and the Rangers’ constant lack of pitching. In the context of the Red Sox, we are likely talking about dealing one of Clay Buchholz, Justin Masterson or Michael Bowden. Let’s take a closer look at these trade candidates to see what we have here:

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14-7: Buchholz, Sox sweep Rangers 8-3

In the annual early Patriot’s Day game, Clay Buchholz (1-1) faced his former teammate Kason Gabbard and worked through some early jams to earn his first win of the season, and a four-game sweep of the Texas Rangers. A costly error and some defensive gaffes cost the Rangers, as they fell 8-3.

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13-7: Sox come back yet again, 6-5

Kevin Millwood pitched a gem of a game for the Texas Rangers, holding the Red Sox scoreless through six innings. Meanwhile, the Rangers had scored early on Tim Wakefield (2-0) and Milton Bradley added a mammoth 3-run Monster shot in the 6th to make it 5-0. Everything changed starting in the 7th inning, when the Red Sox scored two runs on RBI singles by David Ortiz and J.D. Drew to make it 5-2. The next inning, Boston made short work of Wes Littleton and closer C.J. Wilson, scoring four runs to take the lead. Wilson ended his outing with three consecutive walks, the last one of Sean Casey which forced in the go-ahead run in an amazing come-from-behind 6-5 victory.

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Cuckoo for Coco Crisp?

With the emergence of Jacoby Ellsbury this season, the Red Sox are sitting pretty with Coco Crisp as a fourth outfielder. Crisp is too good to be a fourth outfielder, but the Sox have the budget to carry him as such if they can’t get the price they want in a trade. His manageable salary makes him attractive to a lot of smaller market teams, and with so many centerfielders hitting the free agent market, his name has come up early and often. The list of suitors includes (but is not limited to): Atlanta, Minnesota, San Diego, Texas and Washington.

What do the Sox want/can they get in return? Let’s look at a team-by-team breakdown.

Atlanta Braves
With the loss of Andruw Jones, the Braves are getting hit doubly hard. They lose their top defender AND a huge bat. They’ve addressed the offense by getting Mark Teixeira at the 2007 trade deadline, but they need someone to step in and cover centerfield. Atlanta has always liked Crisp, though John Schuerholz is out now as GM. There was some talk of the Sox being interested in Kelly Johnson, though I’m not sure where he would play. The Sox more likely would be interested in a plus bullpen arm; they were said to be going after Mike Gonzalez last year, though I’m not sure the Braves would give him up now.

Minnesota Twins
Torii Hunter had a career year in 2007, and the Twins made a run at the playoffs before flaming out. Now they need to move on and try to squeeze every penny if they want a shot at extending Johan Santana past 2008. The consensus is that they’d like to try for either Crisp or Rocco Baldelli, but the price has been too high, especially with so many bidders. Look for them to reconsider once the big free agents start to get situated, and the pressure gets on to find a starting centerfielder. What could the Sox want from the Twins? Epstein has inquired about Jesse Crain in the past, but maybe they’d like to get someone like Pat Neshek or Matt Guerrier. Maybe even Kevin Slowey or Glen Perkins.

San Diego Padres
With the pending departure of Mike Cameron, the Pads need to sign someone who can cover the vast expanse that is PETCO Stadium. Who better than someone like Crisp? I know that Chase Headley must have come up, but even I would be shocked if they’d give him up. What about getting a solid setup guy, like Heath Bell?

Texas Rangers
The Rangers need someone to man centerfield for them, and they have some good spare parts to offer. The Red Sox are said to have inquired about Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Gerald Laird, both capable of starting at catcher at the big league level. Texas will likely stick with Salty, leaving the 27-year old Laird, who has a great arm and is a good catcher, though inconsistent at the plate. Looks like perfect protege material for Jason Varitek, if you ask me. The other name that’s being bandied about is Hank Blalock, who has been on again and off again of the trading block for a couple of years now. He’d only make sense if we can’t sign Mike Lowell to a reasonable deal.

Washington Nationals
The Nationals tried out a string of players in center this past season with no luck. Failing to sign one of the big names to a one-year deal, acquiring Crisp from the World Champion Red Sox would help them stabilize this team somewhat and start on the road to credibility. Without a doubt, relievers Chad Cordero or Jon Rauch are in this discussion as a return for Crisp.

Epstein will keep asking for a lot; it’s still very early in the offseason. Once Andruw, Torii and Mike find homes, it’ll be easier to gauge what we can get for Coco. Who knows? Other bidders may emerge as the offseason goes on. Then it’s just a matter of who is the highest bidder.

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