The off season has just begun and while the Red Sox have a few questions to answer concerning next seasons roster, it all begins with what to do with Jason Varitek.
Varitek had far from a good year in 08 and as the season wore on his bat looked anemic. Red Sox fans have tremendous loyalty to Tek as they well should, but will Theo Epstein have the same?
Epstein has gone on record stating how important Varitek is to the organization, and you can bet Terry Francona wants number thirty three back behind the plate next year. Variteks leadership, handling of the staff and defense still are among the best in the game.
With Scott Boras as his agent his demands will most likely start with something close to the four year deal Jorge Posada got prior to last year. Reality would suggest something more like two years and an option for a third.
The salary really doesn't mean as much as keeping the roster flexibility Epstein always talks about. The Red Sox can surely afford to over pay a bit in order to keep Varitek.
So, what are the alternatives?
Rumors have the Red Sox interested in any one of the Rangers three catchers, and Kelly Shoppach of the Indians along with whatever free agent catchers become available soon.
I don't see Shoppach available at all after the year he had and having seen Victor Martinez injured again this past season. Martinez can also play first and DH, as there are serious questions in Cleveland concerning Travis Hafner.
As for the trio of Rangers the Sox seem to have the most interest in Taylor Teagarden, the rangers late season callup who hit well and is known for his defense. He most likely would be the most costly as Gerald Laird has lost playing time to both Teagarden and Salty Saltamochia. Saltamochia however seems destined for a new position or DH as his defensive skill rank third among these three.
Look for the Sox to bring in someone else but it does not look like they can afford to let Varitek get away, catchers on the big league level with his intangibles are just too hard to come by.
There are other questions to be answered of course. What to do with Coco Crisp? Are they confident in Mike Lowells ability to come back from his hip surgery? And if not, do they make a play at free agent Mark Texieria? Can they find a trade partner for Julio Lugo? Is Jed Lowrie ready to be an everyday shortstop? And will they look to find another arm in the bullpen, where they cannot be happy with Manny DelCarmens year.
It starts with Varitek. Stay tuned.