Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s 2012 season was shockingly similar to the Red Sox’ season as a whole. He started off decent with plenty of hope, but gradually fizzled during the grind of late summer before simply falling apart in late August and September as he started losing playing time to Ryan Lavarnway. This offseason, the Red Sox need to make a decision on their inconsistent starting catcher. Will they stick with Saltalamacchia, who only batted .222 with 25 home runs and bad defense, or trade him while he still has some value. My opinion is that they should trade him and explore stopgap solutions on the free agent market. Teams that could be interested in taking on Saltalamacchia, who is a free agent after 2013, could include the Angels, Marlins, and Mets.
Trade Option 1. The Red Sox could attempt to flip Salty for Angels’ prospect Nick Maronde– a hard-throwing lefty who pitched to a 2.26 ERA across three levels of the minors last year, as well as a 1.50 ERA in 12 relief appearances at the big league level. A trade of Maronde and a major league utility man to replace Mike Aviles or start in place of Jose Iglesias would be a fair deal. Perhaps the Angels would be willing to part with Maicer Izturis, who can play three positions and .256/.320/.315 with 17 stolen bases in 2012. This would give the Red Sox a utility man and potential starting shortstop along with a potential left reliever or starting pitching prospect.
Trade Option 2. The Red Sox could also try and trade Salty to the Marlins for a similar prospect who could do well with a change of scenery. One guy that fits that profile is Marlins’ left fielder Logan Morrison, who after once being a top prospect, has been disappointing in Miami. After a promising start to his career when he batted .283/.390/.447 in 62 games as a rookie in 2010, he’s fallen. He only batted .230/.308/.399 with 11 home runs in 2012, but there’s still a lot to like about the 25 year old. He would fit into a hole in the outfield and could use his ample opposite field power off of the green monster in left, plus he’d strike out less than Salty.
Trade Option 3. It may be a bit of a stretch, but it wouldn’t hurt for the Red Sox to ask for Jon Niese in a trade with Saltalamacchia. Niese had an immensely successful 2012 season, pitching to a 13-9 record and 3.30 ERA and would fit nicely into the Red Sox rotation as a 25 year old power lefty. To acquire Niese, the Red Sox would probably have to add a kicker such as Craig Breslow or Rubby de la Rosa. However, considering how difficult it is to acquire quality starting pitching, I’d still make a trade with either of those players.
However, the problem with all of these trades is that they would open a hole at the catcher position. Ryan Lavarnway is certainly not ready to take on a full time role after batting just .157/.211/.258 in 42 games, so the Red Sox would need to explore the free agent market. A few names that jump out at me are Brian McCann (whose $12 million option may not be picked up after a disappointing .230/.300/.399 seas0n), David Ross (.256/.321/.449), Russell Martin (.211/.311/.403), and Mike Napoli (.227/.343/.469).
If the Red Sox were to trade Saltalamacchia and Breslow to the Mets in return for Niese, as well as signing Brian McCann to an incentive laden one year deal, they’re a better team in my book. McCann is a much more consistent performer than Salty over their respective careers and also is a better defensive catcher. Meanwhile, Niese would fit nicely as a #3 starter behind Buchholz and Lester in the Red Sox rotation. This would leave Lavarnway room to develop behind a very good catcher and fill out a weak Red Sox rotation. Good times.