3-30-2011: Sox upgrade at backup catcher

The Red Sox made a minor trade yesterday, acquiring 26-year old catcher Mike McKenry from the Colorado Rockies for reliever Daniel Turpen. Like most catchers, McKenry struggles a bit with hitting, but he has some middling power and walks a good deal. Perhaps more importantly, he is a solid catcher defensively, having thrown out a 37% percent of baserunners in his 5-year minor league career and around 30% at Double- and Triple-A. Theo Epstein, looking for depth at catcher, didn’t want to sign another no-hit veteran, but instead added a guy with at least some potential to blossom into a legitimate Major Leaguer.

Mark Wagner was designated for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster. I’d be surprised if he is claimed by anyone, and it is likely he will land back at Pawtucket.

What kind of upgrade are we looking at offensively? Here are our projections for the two players in 2011, next to our expectations for Jarrod Saltalamacchia:

McKenry 197 179 46 11 1 5 23 22 16 44 0.258 0.323 0.402 0.725 0.327
Wagner 97 88 21 6 0 2 10 11 8 21 0.239 0.311 0.379 0.690 0.313
Salty 286 257 63 15 1 7 33 32 27 80 0.244 0.320 0.391 0.711 0.321

While Salty is a switch-hitting player, he’s always been a bit better from the left side (.714 MLE against righties vs .654 MLE against lefties). Not surprisingly, McKenry is right-handed (though he has a reverse split so far in his minor league career). You might say that we’ve just created a potential platoon situation. So the idea is you give the job to Salty, but you have a young backup plan in place rather than Jason Varitek’s creaky knees being the only fallback plan. Not a bad return for kind of a fringy reliever who was not going to play a role on this team. Me likey.


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