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After constructing a World Series Champion team in 2013, Cherington has few holes to fill before defending the title in 2014. The biggest piece missing from this team is a catcher. Saltalamacchia had a solid regular season, setting career highs in many categories and he also broke the franchise record for doubles by a catcher in a season with 40. The postseason was a different story as Salty faltered and was replaced by veteran stalwart David Ross. Assuming that Ross could shoulder the lion’s share bulk of starts behind the plate next year is a mistake. While Ross is calls a great game and is a solid defender behind the plate, he is 36 years old and cannot be expected to make more than 60-65 starts. The task is then to find the correct complement to Ross for the rest of the 100 games and the Red Sox have many options to consider.
Yes his swing is long and is prone to slumps and yes at times he does not make the smartest decisions behind the plate, but Salty was a premium offensive catcher last year. Due to the hard work catchers must put into calling a game, many are late bloomers with their bats. Saltalamacchia is a great example of this as in his age-28 season he has seemingly figured himself out offensively.
According to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, the Red Sox have offered Saltalamacchia a two year deal with an average annual value (AAV) just south of $10 million. The length here is key. With standout prospects such as Blake Swihart and Christian Vasquez close to Major League ready, the Red Sox may be looking to build a bridge to them rather than signing a catcher long-term. Unfortunately with Saltalamacchia having plenty of suitors, it looks as if this deal will not be enough and the Red Sox may have to up the ante if they want to keep him around.
If the bidding for Salty starts to get out of hand, it may be best to find a stopgap catcher on the free agent market. The most interesting names out there are Brian McCann, Carlos Ruiz, and A.J. Pierzynski. McCann will require the largest commitment both in years and salary while Ruiz and Pierzynski could be had on shorter term deals.
As far as platooning with David Ross, McCann and Pierzynski make the most sense while Ruiz seems redundant. With all this is mind, pursuing McCann has the most upside. If the Red Sox were able to convince him to sign to a 3-4 year deal with a higher AAV then it would serve them well. After platooning with Ross for about two years, McCann could shift to the DH position when David Ortiz inevitably retires.
There is a third path the Red Sox could take to find their catcher for 2014. Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports has reported that the Orioles may be willing to move Matt Wieters for the right package. Wieters in his career has won two Gold Gloves and has been an All-Star twice. Wieters is masterful behind the dish, but like many catchers he has struggled to live up to his offensive potential. Next year Wieters will be heading into his age-28 season, and as was mentioned before this is typically when catchers peak offensively. Trading for Wieters would give the Red Sox time to bring Swihart and Vasquez along slowly and possibly use one or both of them as trade bait for another deal. The largest hurdle with this deal is that teams often do not like trading within the division. Wieters could be had, but the price may be far too steep for the Red Sox to consider.
While they are all viable options, the one that will most likely win out in the end is the return of Saltalamacchia. The prices in salary for McCann and prospects for Wieters may end up to be to prohibitive. A two year deal would be best for Salty, and the Red Sox may be able to convince him to take it if they bump up the AAV considerably. In the end, overpaying Salty for two years makes more sense than trading away the farm or overpaying McCann for five years.