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Red Sox Preview: Jason Varitek

Jason Varitek

Jason Varitek
Pos C
Age 35
Bats R/L
Throws R
Experience 10 years
2008 Salary $11,000,000

2007 Stats

131 435 57 111 15 3 17 68 71 1 2 .255 .365 .421

Current Affairs:

Varitek is in the last year of his 4-year, $40 million deal. Varitek’s agent, Scott Boras, has said he wants to talk about a contract extension beginning this spring training. “(Varitek) is a valuable part of the franchise who is a unique guy,” Boras said. “He’s a special man to an organization, which is realized more now than before” (Boston Herald).

The Red Sox most likely will give Varitek an extension. There aren’t any other high level options out there. From free agent catchers to minor leaguers, the talent pool is slim. In addition, Varitek wants to be back. Even though his agent is Scott Boras, Varitek is the kind of guy to return for a home town discount. Approaching age 36, Varitek will be limited to short term deals for the rest of his career (one or two years at less than 10 million a year, most likely). With little other options, Varitek will be in a Red Sox uniform behind the plate calling games for the next few years.

Offense: Grade B

Like all 35-year-old catchers, Jason Varitek’s body has taken a beating. Those legs have sat behind the plate for 1199 major league games and it has shown.

In 2007 Varitek’s numbers might not look good, or be what Varitek was once capable of, but it was good. Of all catchers in the MLB with 400 ABs, Varitek had the 5th highest OPS (OB% + SLG%) at .787. Ahead of Varitek in order are Jorge Posada, Victor Martinez, Russell Martin, and Joe Mauer. Varitek being the next best option after these All-Star catchers is something to stand behind.

Varitek still has solid plate discipline and power. In ’07, Varitek had a career high in walks with 71. He also had 17 homeruns, 7th most of all MLB catchers. Both are good signs for a guy who doesn’t hit for a good average anymore.

In 2008 Varitek’s numbers will probably get a little worse, but about the same production is expected.

Defense: Grade C+

The best part of Varitek’s defense is his pitching management. Although the numbers don’t show a strong correlation, everyone in the organization from front office to player management agrees. With added maturity, Varitek should only get better with age. His work ethic and smarts are some of the best in the baseball.

A weakness of Varitek is throwing out base runners. This isn’t anything new. Even at his career best in 2002 at .277 baserunners thrown out, Varitek was 2nd to last ahead of Mike Piazza for qualified catchers. Now that’s awful. Even though Piazza was much worse, to be in his defense company is atrocious. In the last three years Varitek’s caught stealing numbers have been .241, .220, .244. All figures were near the bottom for all MLB catchers.

The wear and tear may catch up to Varitek’s legs in the coming years, but the Red Sox don’t keep him behind the plate for his defensive skills, but the way he handles the pitching staff.

Baserunning : Grade C

Every year Varitek manages a steal, all because he picks his spots. In ’07 he got 1 Sb but got caught twice. Good enough.

Varitek’s strength is smart base-running. For a catcher he has slightly above average speed rounding the bases. Varitek reads balls in the gap well and will go first to third aggressively. He doesn’t make any dumb mistakes on the baseline and isn’t a clogger.

Clubhouse Presence: Grade A

Varitek is the captain. Not because he’s outspoken, or because he’s the best player on the team. It’s because he goes about baseball the way most should, and leads by example. I don’t see any Britney Spears-breakdowns for Varitek coming. Expect the same leadership from him in ’08.

2008 Player Projection

130 455 54 115 22 3 16 66 70 1 1 .253 .355 .420

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