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Carlos Ruiz? The Red Sox were interested but not for more than two years, so he went to the Phillies. Brian McCann? Big name, big bat, and he seemed like a good fit, but it came down to years again, so he’ll be in pinstripes for the foreseeable future. Jose Molina resigned with the Rays, Branyan Pena went to the Reds, and Dioner Navarro is rumored to be close to a deal. The list of catchers on the market is growing shorter by the minute, and the Red Sox are running out of time. With so few options left on the board what should be Ben Cherington’s next move?
It’s no secret that if the Red Sox really wanted Salty back next year, they would have offered him a qualifying offer of $14.1 million. At that point in the offseason, Salty would have jumped at that offer knowing he probably would not be able to match the annual value with a contract elsewhere. Now with so few catchers left on the market, Saltalamacchia’s price is rising.
Jarrod’s agent could make the case that he is the best of the remaining available catchers left and that he should be in line for a three to four year contract with an AAV close to $14 million. With outstanding prospects Blake Swihart and Christian Vasquez waiting in the wings, four years may be too rich for Cherington’s blood.
The last known offer the Red Sox extended Salty was two years at just under $10 million a year. If they truly want him back, they will have to do better than that. A two to three year deal with an AAV close to $15 million is probably what it would take for Salty to forgo the fourth year.
Outside of AJ Pierzynski, there are no other real attractive options on the market. Pierzynski is not the perfect option. As a left handed hitter he would be an ideal complement to David Ross behind the plate, but a look at his numbers and his ability to get on base raises some concerns. Pierzynski has also received a bad reputation in the clubhouse, and for a team that thrived on chemistry last year it may not be the best choice.
After Pierzynski, the remaining catchers are the likes of John Buck, Kelly Shoppach, and Wil Nieves. These are hardly players that you want to see starting over 80 games for the Red Sox next year. So if the Red Sox plan on bringing in a free agent catcher, they need to move fast.
In a recent interview with WEEI, Cherington said that the Red Sox can be “choosy” with the catcher position despite Brian McCann and Carlos Ruiz already off the board. He explains that they have “interest in a handful of free agents…also talked to teams about trades.” Cherington must know something we do not because from this point of view he is running out of options fast. Maybe the Red Sox GM does indeed have another trick up his sleeve, but until then Red Sox fans watch worriedly as the backstop options dwindle.