2014 Catching Options for the Boston Red Sox
It's telling that in the most important moments of the 2013 season for the Boston Red Sox, catcher David Ross was the one behind the plate.
It spoke volumes about manager John Farrell's comfort in having the veteran receiver behind the plate to focus on the Red Sox pitching staff and defense.
The first move made by Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington last winter was to sign Ross. It was a very important moment that indicated Boston was going to go for substance instead of style. It also served notice that the Red Sox expected more from their catchers.
Ross provided everything that the Red Sox could have hoped for down the stretch and especially in the playoffs. Behind the plate in the postseason, Ross was able to lead the Red Sox pitching staff to a surprising World Series championship.
This article will examine some of the options that the Red Sox might have to pair with Ross for the 2014 season. Some of these options are better than others, giving the Red Sox plenty to think about this winter.
Player information and stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference unless otherwise noted.
It is almost unfair that the lasting image of Jarrod Saltalamacchia in a Red Sox uniform will be the ending to Game 3 of the World Series, with Saltalamacchia watching his ill-advised throw get past Will Middlebrooks and leading to the controversial obstruction call to end the game.
Salty has improved every year and has done everything that the Red Sox asked of him since acquiring him during the 2010 season. His defense and hitting improved while playing in Boston. But I am not sure if it is enough to bring him back next season.
The Red Sox have some interest in bringing him back on a team-friendly deal, but I imagine that it would be hard for Saltalamacchia to return next spring knowing that his manager felt Ross was the starter during the most critical games of the year.
Boston likely did Salty a favor by not sticking him with a qualifying offer. Given the lack of quality catching throughout baseball and the fact that the 28-year-old has continued to improve, he should be able to land a solid deal and a chance to start over somewhere new.
Carlos Ruiz seems to be one of the hot names to surface for the Red Sox in regard to becoming their main catcher in 2014. His offensive numbers would be comparable to Saltalamacchia except for the power numbers.
If the Red Sox could retain Ruiz on a two-year deal, it would give them a bridge to the next wave of minor league catchers, including Blake Swihart and Christian Vazquez.
Ruiz would not require any draft-pick compensation from the Red Sox, something that might be attractive as well.
Catcher Brian McCann is a very intriguing name to surface for the Red Sox. The 29-year-old backstop is easily the best offensive catcher on the market and a good leader with the pitching staff. Signing McCann would require giving up a compensation pick.
McCann has hit 20 or more homers in seven of the past eight seasons for the Atlanta Braves, numbers that would help any offense coming from the catcher's spot in the lineup.
Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported that McCann might be in line for a monster deal totaling $100 million, a figure that would look to be far too rich for the Red Sox's taste with Blake Swihart and Christian Vazquez waiting in the wings.
The only way that I could see the Red Sox getting seriously involved with McCann would be if they lost all of their free agents, including Jacoby Ellsbury, Stephen Drew, Mike Napoli and Jarrod Saltalamacchia very quickly.
McCann worked with Ross while playing for the Braves, something that might lead to the Red Sox talking to McCann.
If the Red Sox don't end up re-signing Saltalamacchia this winter, then the most likely one-year fit for Boston would be bringing in veteran catcher A.J. Pierzynski to platoon with Ross for the 2014 season.
The 36-year-old Pierzynski had a decent season for the Texas Rangers in 2013 but started to show signs of decline in his walk ratio and OBP. It was Pierzynski's first season with the Rangers.
According to Rob Bradford of WEEI.com, the Red Sox have shown interest in the veteran backstop, something that makes sense given his $7.5 million price tag from last season and the likelihood that he would come at a reasonable cost and give Boston decent offensive production.
Signing Pierzynski for one year would not require any draft-pick compensation, and it might also mean the Red Sox feel that Christian Vazquez or Blake Swihart might be ready in 2015.
Want Red Sox GM Ben Cherington to be bold and aggressive this winter and pull off a blockbuster? Then Carlos Santana might be the right target for Boston.
If Cherington were going to splurge and trade prospects, then calling the Cleveland Indians about acquiring the switch-hitting 27-year-old catcher from the Dominican Republic would be the way to go.
Santana is an excellent offensive catcher with a career batting average of .254, an OBP of .367 and an OPS of .814. He has excellent power, takes walks, works the strike zone and is a workhorse.
The young catcher is also signed to an extremely team-friendly contract through the 2016 season. The combination of offensive production and cost control makes him an ideal trade target if Boston wanted to go down that road.
Santana would cost a lot in trade, but he would give the Red Sox a potential star behind the plate.
John Buck would be another option for a one-year stopgap catcher for the Red Sox to consider in 2014.
Offensively, he wouldn't give the Red Sox much, but he could probably pair with Ross until something better becomes available.
If the Red Sox are looking to deal one of their starting pitchers for a starting catcher, then they could do worse than talk to the Arizona Diamondbacks about catcher Miguel Montero.
Montero is coming off of a poor 2013 season but has shown good offensive skills in his career and has been making steady progress behind the plate defensively.
The D-backs might be willing to move the remaining $50 million and four years left on Montero's deal in order to address other areas of need on their roster.
Offensively, Navarro would be a good platoon partner for Ross, giving the Red Sox a decent hitter with a career .251 average.
For the Red Sox, Navarro would be an excellent one- or two-year signing, giving Boston a reasonably priced catcher who could be moved when the team's prospects are ready.
Boston could be one of those teams, depending on how the free-agent market develops. The 33-year-old Hanigan is a good defensive catcher who had easily his worst season at the major league level in 2013.
In his career, Hanigan has been a decent offensive player, one who might interest the Red Sox if the price is right.
The Oakland A's have matched up with the Red Sox in the past on trades. This winter, that relationship could continue if the teams talk about veteran catcher John Jaso.
The 30-year-old Jaso would have fit very well on this past season's Red Sox squad, working the count and grinding out at-bats and games. As a platoon partner with Ross, the Red Sox would have two veteran catchers who could work together very well during the 2014 season.
The cost wouldn't be too steep, and Boston would have two years of control remaining with Jaso before he hits free agency.