Despite going an impressive 18-8 during the first month of the season, the Boston Red Sox may not be entirely happy with the makeup of their roster. In particular, the team may be interested in replacing Jarrod Saltalamacchia and upgrading the catcher position.
WEEI’ Annie Maroon reported that ESPN’s Buster Olney appeared on the WEEI "Mut and Merloni" radio show Wednesday and spoke about Boston’s rumored unhappiness with Saltalamacchia, their current starting catcher:
With Saltalamacchia, I’ve heard this from executives of other teams: They say they think the Red Sox will be looking for an upgrade at that position, possible even before the trade deadline at some point. They feel like, given the money that they’re paying him, he’s got to perform better than how he’s been performing at the beginning of this year.
The 28-year-old switch-hitting Saltalamacchia is in his fourth year with the Red Sox.
He has played in 20 games so far this season, hitting .232 with three home runs and eight RBI and has struck out 27 times in 69 at-bats. He has also struggled defensively, having allowed 12 stolen bases without throwing out any runners.
He is making $4.5 million and will be eligible for free agency after the end of the season.
Although Saltalamacchia slugged 25 home runs last year, he hit just .222, including .200 during the second half of the season.
He has hit a combined .227 with 44 home runs and 124 RBI in 254 games during his career with Boston while throwing out 23.7 percent of attempted base stealers.
Should the Red Sox try to replace Saltalamacchia?
It’s unclear what direction the Red Sox would go in if they did decide to address their catcher position.
The team must be happy with backup David Ross, who signed a two-year free-agent contract during the offseason. He has an .818 OPS and has thrown out 30 percent of runners in nine games so far this year. However, he is 36 and hasn’t played in more than 62 games in a season since 2007. It seems unlikely he would be given an expanded role.
The Red Sox could explore the trade market, but catching figures to be hard to find.
With star Brian McCann due back from injury soon, the Atlanta Braves have rookie Evan Gattis and veteran Gerald Laird on their roster. Gattis and his .566 slugging percentage isn't going anywhere, so that leaves Laird as a possible option.
The 33-year-old is in his 11th major league season and was once known more for his defense than his bat. However, he has done little in either category in recent years, hitting a combined .270 with three home runs and 28 RBI in 109 games since the start of the 2011 season.
Laird has thrown out 35 percent of baserunners during his career but just 18.1 percent since 2011.
The New York Mets could move veteran impending free agent John Buck to make room for prospect Travis d’Arnaud, but that wouldn’t be a possible scenario until much later in the season. The youngster is out until late June with a fractured foot, and since he has never played at the major league level, would not likely be thrown immediately into the fire.
Minnesota Twins star Joe Mauer is a wonderful hitter but wouldn’t be a good match for the Red Sox even if he were put on the trade block. He just turned 30 and still has five years and $115 million remaining on his contract after this season. Shedding a lot of payroll with last summer’s huge trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers is a sign that Boston isn’t looking to take on such a big risk.
The only internal option the Red Sox might consider is Ryan Lavarnway, but he also comes with his own baggage.
The 25-year-old has struggled at the plate (.172 batting average) and as a thrower (13 percent caught stealing) in 63 major league games over the past two years.
Although it’s a small sample size, Lavarnway has looked much better this season playing for Triple-A Pawtucket. He has hit .313 with an .871 OPS in 13 games while throwing out four of nine runners.
If Boston was to give him a chance, it sounds like Lavarnway would be mentally ready. During a recent brief stint with the Red Sox, he told the Boston Herald’s Adam Kurkjian, “I think it’s just about going out and doing your thing, man. I’ve been here a few times now so whatever opportunity I’m given I’m going to try and take advantage of.”
The Red Sox may not be happy with what Saltalamacchia is giving them, but there is no obvious solution as things stand today. So, let the rumors begin!
Statistics via Baseball-Reference