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Boston Red Sox: Should Sox Trade Kelly Shoppach to Promote Ryan Lavarnway?

BOSTON, MA - MAY 26: Kelly Shoppach #10 of the Boston Red Soxat Fenway Park on May 26, 2012 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Gail Oskin/Getty Images)
Gail Oskin/Getty Images
Benjamin KleinContributor IIIJuly 6, 2012

In the next few weeks, Boston Red Sox GM Ben Cherington might have to decide whether he should trade Kelly Shoppach in order to promote Ryan Lavarnway.

Shoppach has been a solid backup catching option for the Red Sox this season, and he’s actually nearly as good statistically as starter Jarrod Saltalamacchia has been. Despite a difference of 33 games played, Shoppach sits just 0.3 behind Saltalamacchia in WAR this season.

Shoppach’s trade value is about as high as it’s going to get and it might be time to relinquish the veteran to a team seeking a catching option for the second half of the season.

Trading Shoppach to clear a spot for Lavarnway could happen, according to FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal.

In 67 games for Triple-A Pawtucket, Lavarnway is hitting .313/.402/.468 with seven home runs, 36 RBI and 46 runs.

Lavarnway broke onto the major league scene last season after hitting 32 home runs for the Paw Sox and was recalled late in the season. He ended up hitting two home runs in 17 games with the Red Sox, but only hit .231.

Is this the time to promote Lavarnway to the majors permanently? No, it isn’t.

Lavarnway is having a fine season for Pawtucket, but it’s nowhere near the season that Saltalamacchia is having in the majors.

Saltalamacchia has already tied his career high in home runs with 16 through 65 games and has an OPS of .823. Even though he wasn’t named to the AL All-Star team, he has established a strong rapport with his pitchers, according to Tim Britton of the Providence Journal.

Although calling up Lavarnway would be nice, it’s not the time to do it. The situation would become similar to what happened at third base between Kevin Youkilis and Will Middlebrooks.

Youkilis needed to play in order to increase his trade value which didn’t allow Middlebrooks to play on a regular basis—which is essential for a young rookie.

Calling up Lavarnway would present a logjam behind the plate. Lavarnway would also need to get regular time, but there’s no way manager Bobby Valentine could sit Saltalamacchia.

It would make much more sense to wait until late September—whether Boston is in or out of the playoff race—or even next season to call up Lavarnway.

Whether Cherington decides to start Saltalamacchia or Lavarnway next season, I think re-signing Shoppach—who’ll be a free agent after this season—is a good idea. Whoever isn’t the starting catcher next season, Cherington should trade and let Shoppach continue to be the backup.

If it’s Lavarnway, he’ll have a veteran catcher behind him to teach him how to be a major league catcher. If it’s Saltalamacchia, Cherington should be able to acquire some decent players in return for Lavarnway.

At this point in the season, trading Shoppach in order to promote Lavarnway just isn’t a good idea.

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