Theo Epstein is long gone, but his legacy of stocking the Boston Red Sox farm system full of raw potential is still paying dividends. The Sox' top prospect, Ryan Lavarnway, is reportedly close to being recalled from Pawtucket, with trade rumors swirling around backup catcher Kelly Shoppach.
Mets have considered Kelly Shoppach if price on Ramon Hernandez is too high, which would get Ryan Lavarnway to Boston.— Peter Gammons (@pgammo) July 14, 2012
Shoppach signed a one-year, $1.35 million deal with Boston prior to the start of the season, but it wasn't his first stop in Beantown. The Sox selected him out of Baylor University with their second round pick in the 2001 MLB draft.
Lavarnway, out of Yale, fell to the sixth round in the 2008 draft due to a wrist injury, but has played more like a first-rounder with Boston's minor league affiliates. Splitting time between Class-AA Portland and AAA Pawtucket in 2011, Lavarnway hit a combined 32 dingers to go along with 93 RBI and a .290 average.
Shoppach has produced some impressive power numbers in the minors himself, setting a single-season home run record for Pawtucket catchers with 21 bombs in 2004. Shoppach received his first call-up in 2005, but wouldn't see extensive at-bats until 2006, following a trade to the Cleveland Indians.
With the Mets interested in acquiring Shoppach, the Red Sox have the opportunity to improve their club in more ways than one. Lavarnway is clearly the future at the backstop position and has proven more than ready to compete full-time at the major league level.
Through 268 at-bats in 2012 (AAA), Lavarnway carries a .306 average, seven home runs and 38 RBI.
Time to promote Lavarnway?
Shoppach was once packaged with prospects and cash considerations back in 2006 as a part of the Coco Crisp deal, but, at 32 years old, it's more realistic to expect a smaller return. Still, he's not a talent to scoff at.
With extended playing time in Cleveland, Shoppach turned some heads with his production at times. In 2008, Shoppach recorded five extra base hits in one game, becoming just the second American League player, and eighth player overall, in MLB history to ever do so.
In 2009, Shoppach drove in the first-ever run in the new Yankee Stadium and followed that up by catching a no-hitter in 2010 following his trade to Tampa Bay.
Boston could nab a bullpen arm or lower-level prospect in return for Shoppach while adding a dangerous power threat to the 25-man roster in Lavarnway. The 24-year-old may have his work cut out for him earning starts over incumbent starter Jarrod Saltalamacchia, but he could also play DH.
Lavarnway converted from right field in college, so it will be interesting to see if the Sox get comfortable enough to move him around. This is undoubtedly a bat you want in your lineup for many years to come and one Boston may be getting very shortly.