2010-2011 Offseason: Catcher
October 12, 2010 1 Comment
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. Martinez 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.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia is a post-prospect project, and holds some promise, along with a boatload of questions. His bat appears to be better than average for a catcher, but the defense has been barely adequate and he may not be mentally tough enough yet for a staff to lean on. There is no way that the conservative Sox would dare go into 2011 with him at the top of the depth chart. That being said, they want to give him the opportunity to earn playing time and perhaps become the star many people thought he would be just two or three years ago.
Kevin Cash and Dusty Brown have been taken off of the 40-man roster and are likely to be cut, but there are several other depth options, including Gustavo Molina, Mark Wagner and Luis Exposito. None of them figure to be ready to start next year, however.
I think it is all but certain that the Sox will either re-sign Martinez or else sign or trade for another veteran catcher, one who will command the respect of the young pitchers and can help bring Salty along. One alternative might be Gerald Laird, a catcher with a reputation for good defense, who is a free agent this offseason, and he was a teammate of Saltalamacchia’s back in Texas. John Buck has been mentioned as well, but I wouldn’t expect him necessarily to replicate his 2010.
There is a fair chance for the 2011 team to be vastly different than the 2010 edition. Completely replacing your top two catchers who already have the confidence of your pitching staff is a dicey proposition for any team.