Blog Entry

Red Sox have two-week leash on Saltalamacchia

Posted on: April 20, 2011 10:42 pm
Edited on: April 20, 2011 10:45 pm


By Evan Brunell

The Red Sox could make a change at catcher in the coming weeks, as Peter Gammons reports on WEEI, noting that "this is an issue that in the next two weeks is going to be addressed, and I don't know which direction it's going."

Incumbent Jarrod Saltalamacchia, once thought to have a leash until June, instead could be on the way out after a thoroughly uninspiring start to the year. Salty has an inaccurate arm and has looked lost at the plate by striking out 13 times in 39 plate appearances with a low .194/.256/.222 line. That's simply awful, and while it's only 39 plate appearances, he's looked so far away from the pedigree that made him a former first-round pick that he's already started losing copious amounts of playing time to Jason Varitek. The captain has started five of the last nine games -- this after Salty kicked the year off with seven of eight appearances.

"He’s such a good guy. He cares so much. He tries so hard," Gammons said. "[But] you just can’t have this on a championship team, especially when a big part of that championship team is built around power pitchers who are in a couple of cases struggling for their identity. I would be shocked now if Varitek doesn’t catch [Josh] Beckett all the time now. Clearly, they’ve made the decision that he’s going to catch [Daisuke] Matsuzaka, whose earned run average is massively different with Varitek catching. But I don’t think they can afford to let Jason go out and try to catch 120, 130 games."

Part of the problem is that the performances of pitchers with Salty starting are terrible, with a 7.16 ERA for pitchers with the 26-year-old behind the plate. 'Tek, meanwhile, is at 2.40. It's far too early to consider whether that's an actual issue or dumb luck as the sample size is simply too small. But the fact that Varitek has already become the personal catcher for two starting pitchers is not promising. That said, it remains in Boston's best interest to develop Saltalamacchia. With the Red Sox finally winning and the pressure off searching for quick fix solutions, Salty will get a fair number of at-bats in the next couple of weeks to prove Boston's adamant belief that he can be an impact hitter.

What happens if he can't, though? What happens if Boston decides to move on from Salty? Who can replace him?

It can't be Varitek, who has proven at this point in his career he is no longer capable of starting full-time. But who else is out there?

Internally, Luis Exposito and Michael McKenry (acquired from the Rockies in late March) are splitting time at Triple-A. While McKenry is an intriguing name, he is off to a slow start and in a new organization. Exposito, meanwhile, could end up a starting catcher in the majors but the 24-year-old is struggling himself in his first crack at Triple-A.

Gammons names Tim Federowicz as a possibility, as the Double-A catcher is "the best catch-and-throw guy in the organization." Certainly, if a move was to be made, the Sox would go defense over offense so Federowicz is a real possibility -- a better one than Ryan Lavarnway, a catcher in name only who is DHing as Federowciz's teammate.

How about externally? Boston certainly has the trade pieces to strike for a catcher, as they could dangle outfielder Mike Cameron, infielders Jed Lowrie or Marco Scutaro (likely the latter) and prospects such as Yamaico Navarro, Oscar Tejeda, Kyle Weiland, Lars Anderson ... no, finding chips to deal won't be an issue. Finding someone to deal for is. The best available name is Ivan Rodriguez, who is frozen out in Washington. But there's a reason I-Rod is available: he's no longer a legitimate starter as his bat has abandoned him in his chase for 3,000 hits. Gammons also believes Rodriguez would struggle with the pitching staff in Boston even if he has an impeccable defensive reputation.

Other than that ... umm ...

"If there was somebody available who they thought was really good defensively, I think they would immediately jump and do something. I don’t see that catcher," said Gammons. "I’ve gone through lists everywhere trying to figure out who could possibly be available. I just don’t see anybody good. There are guys out there who are OK backups."

And "OK backups" won't fly for the Red Sox. Oh, sure, the Red Sox could entice Bengie Molina out of retirement, but Molina's an aging catcher whose lost all value in his bat and would need a few weeks, at minimum, to get into playing shape.

Bottom line: there isn't much out there.

When push comes to shove, even if the Red Sox believe Salty's leash is only there for two more weeks, they may not have much choice in extending that leash.

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Since: Sep 17, 2007
Posted on: April 22, 2011 6:15 pm

Red Sox have two-week leash on Saltalamacchia

I was afraid of this all offseason. When the Sox were kicking the tires on Russell Martin, all they offered him was a cheapo minor league deal. Everybody scoffed at the time at the notion that losing out the "Russell Martin Sweepstakes' to New York would be irrelevant because everyone was so enamored of the Gonzalez & Crawford deals that finding a catcher with significant major league experience was pretty far down on everyone's checklist. Plus, Martin was coming off seasons in which his stats declined in virtually every category from when he was a 20-20 threat and an all-star a few years ago. But the Red Sox had no insurance policy in the event that Salty might fail to improve and continue playing like... well, like Salty. I remember a few years ago when the Sox were rolling early on in Pedroia's rookie year and he struggled out of the gate, people were calling for Alex Cora to take his job and send Pedroia back to the minors. The Sox stuck with Petey and that turned out pretty good so I believe in letting a young player work through their troughs. However, after parts of 4 major league seasons, Salty's prospect status is junk now and they guy still can't hit, throw or call a game. I loved Salty when he was just breaking into the bigs. He had everything you'd want in a prospect (including an awesome name) and his bat was reputedly so good that he was projected to eventually move to a different position to save his energy for the plate. I still hope he can turn it around but as for the immediate future, the Sox need to be looking at alternatives. The only problem is that I just don't see what other options they have. If Captain Hindsight were to pay Boston a visit, he might suggest that it would have been a good idea to go after Russell "J." Martin a little harder.

Since: Nov 14, 2006
Posted on: April 22, 2011 12:42 pm

Red Sox have two-week leash on Saltalamacchia

How about externally? Boston certainly has the trade pieces to strike for a catcher, as they could dangle outfielder , infielders or (likely the latter) and prospects such as Yamaico Navarro, Oscar Tejeda, Kyle Weiland, Lars Anderson ... no, finding chips to deal won't be an issue. Finding someone to deal for is.
The A's have pretty good depth at catcher and none of their prospects stand a chance at breaking through to the majors with Kurt Suzuki behind the dish. I'm sure if Boston offered up Scutaro (or perhaps Lowrie depending on the prospect) they could get one back. Landon Powell, who caught Dallas Braden's perfect game last season could be available. As could prospects Josh Donaldson and Anthony Recker. Recker, at 27, is fairly old for a prospect, but his career OPS in the minors is around .800. Neither have gotten real opportunities with Suzuki on the major league roster. Heck, Donaldson is even attempting to learn 3rd in an attempt to make him more versatile.

Since: Oct 17, 2010
Posted on: April 20, 2011 11:28 pm

Red Sox have two-week leash on Saltalamacchia

Yet more proof to establish the true genius of Theo Epstein.  In all likelihood, the genius still has the gorilla suit in his office closet.  Only a tue genius would have the forsight to stock his closet with such a suit.

Then there is this gem: "the Red Sox could entice out of retirement".


Since: Feb 9, 2007
Posted on: April 20, 2011 11:19 pm

Red Sox have two-week leash on Saltalamacchia

No one is stupid enough to trade for Mike cameron!  Also with the way Jed Lowrie is carrying the offense please DO NOT trade him Red Sox.  I can see them trying to trade bait Marco Scutaro.  Jarrod Saltalamacchia so far has been a bust imo for the sox, it's very early but he has not produced like anyone thought he would.  I don't see why Theo and company were so high on the kid when he was with the rangers, so far nothing he has done has made me think he is worthy of being on this team.  Again, it's too early really to make judgements BUT the pitching staff has done MUCH better with Jason Varitek behind the plate!  Only problem is there really isn't any catchers who are tradable right now and not sure bringing up anyone is the answer either.

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