Saturday, February 9, 2013
Lavarnway on outside looking in
By Jason Catania
The Boston Red Sox have four players capable of handling catching duties on at least a part-time or fill-in basis. How is it likely to play out?
The four candidates -- Jarrod Saltalamacchia, David Ross, Ryan Lavarnway and even Mike Napoli -- are broken down by FanGraphs' Mike Petriello, who suggests that the Red Sox could trade one of them to upgrade elsewhere, with the Seattle Mariners and Chicago White Sox as possible trade partners.
And while all four could catch for Boston, in theory, it's almost guaranteed that Napoli, a recent free agent acquisition whose initial agreement with the club was severely cut back after his physical detected a hip problem, won't see much, if any time, behind the dish.
Lavarnway, meanwhile, is a questionable defensive catcher, so while he could fit as a backup or platoon option, he might make more sense as a designated hitter who fills in at backstop and first base. Of course, DH is clogged by David Ortiz. Lavarnway has nothing left to prove in the minors, but the 25-year-old has just 63 games on his big league resume and may start the year back in Triple-A. In fact, GM Ben Cherington indicated as much to WEEI's Rob Bradford, who points out that Lavarnway has one minor league option remaining.
By process of elimination, then, that leaves Saltalamacchia and Ross, who actually might form a rather productive platoon tandem: the switch-hitting Salty sports a measly .203 average and .591 OPS for his career when batting from the right side against left-handers, but those numbers improve to .254 and .774 in the inverse; the righty-swinging Ross, fittingly, hits .274 with a .790 OPS versus southpaws.
There may be a surplus of backstops in Boston, but in reality, this situation isn't all that complicated to work out. It doesn't mean the Red Sox won't trade someone at some point -- most likely Saltalamacchia or Lavarnway -- but the depth isn't as deep as it seems.