MLB Free Agents 2012: Boston Red Sox Sign Kelly Shoppach, End Jason Varitek Era

Ben Shapiro@benshapironyc1 Analyst IIIDecember 13, 2011

The Jason Varitek era has come to an end in Boston. 

Nothing is set in stone as of yet but the Red Sox' signing of Kelly Shoppach this morning creates a roster where there is simply no place for Jason Varitek.

Shoppach will give Boston a solid backup option at catcher as well as provide the team with a potential everyday catcher should projected starter Jarrod Saltalamachia miss time due to injury or experience a prolonged slump.

Shoppach's arrival isn't the big part of the story though.

Jason Varitek will leave the Red Sox as possibly the most decorated catcher in Red Sox history. Carlton Fisk had better career numbers but a significant portion of his Hall of Fame career was spent wearing a Chicago White Sox uniform.

Varitek might sign a short-term deal with another team this offseason but he will always be remembered as the starting catcher of some of the Boston Red Sox' most cherished teams.

For 15 seasons Varitek was a staple behind the plate for Boston. He caught Pedro Martinez during his days of dominance, he squared off with Alex Rodriguez when the Yankee-Red Sox rivalry was at its apex in the 2003 and 2004 seasons, and he was part of not one, but two Boston Red Sox World Series titles—their first two since 1918.

Varitek was never a superstar around the league. He has only three All-Star appearances and just one Gold Glove on his resume. Varitek was an emotional leader and strong team presence for Boston though.

In his prime, he was a solid offensive player who slugged 20 or more home runs in three different seasons. He was much more than that to the Red Sox and their fans though.

Varitek exuded strength and confidence, and did it with class. He was a throwback type of player who rarely craved the spotlight even though his popularity in the Boston area could easily have created a "star" type of following.

The Boston Red Sox will start the 2012 season with a new manager, new general manger and without an old standby now that Kelly Shoppach has been signed. That's probably good for the team, as Varitek has experienced a drop-off in production as he's increased in age.

It's still going to be strange turning on a game and not even seeing Varitek on the roster. When Varitek first showed up for a one-game appearance in 1997, the Red Sox were a team that featured players like Mo Vaughn, John Valentin, Brian Rose, Mike Stanley and rookie Nomar Garciaparra. Much has changed in Boston since then but until the 2012 season, there was always Jason Varitek.

The Varitek era has likely come to an end but Red Sox fans won't ever forget him or the era in which he played.  

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