The Red Sox just cruised into May with the best record in the Majors, yet apparently they are already considering some changes. In particular, the Red Sox are reportedly interested in replacing Jarrod Saltalamacchia and getting an upgrade in the catching department. ESPN’s Buster Olney dropped this bomb, seemingly out of nowhere, on The Mut & Merloni Radio Show on Wednesday.
The 28-year-old backstop has been Boston’s starting catcher since 2011, having been acquired from Texas the year before. The switch-hitter is off to a fairly mundane start this season, hitting at just .232, but with a .321 OBP and a .435 SLG percentage (right in line with his career norms), it likely isn’t his bat that the front office is concerned about.
There has always been some concern over Salty’s defense, even though it has improved over the years. He’s always been average at nabbing would-be base stealers. Not to mention it was a difficult year in 2011 after Saltalamacchia took over the catching duties from Jason Varitek, and it had a discernible effect on the pitching staff. Sox manager John Farrell even griped about the catcher’s errant throw in Toronto, claiming he should have called interference on the umpire immediately, and that he should have known the rule, instead of allowing play to continue.
Given his relatively league average bat, it’s understandable for the Red Sox to seek a defensive improvement, especially considering how valuable a great defensive catch can be. The offseason acquisition of David Ross is a prime example of just that; his defensive prowess behind the plate is well-known, and he’s thrown out thirty percent of base runners this season. Yet, given his age and the fact that he hasn’t played in more than 62 games since 2007, the Sox probably aren’t looking to give him a vastly expanded role.
With Ross signed to a two-year deal, the Sox would probably just be looking for a temporary upgrade. Another Braves catcher could fit the bill quite nicely, Brian McCann is due to be a free agent after this year, but has unfortunately begun the year on the disabled list, however Evan Gattis’ emergence may have forced McCann out of a job. Ryan Lavarnway, who is off to a great start at AAA Pawtucket, has floundered in each of his big league opportunities, but could also replace Saltalamacchia.
Unfortunately, no matter how unhappy Boston might be with Salty’s performance, there isn’t much they can do about it now. Perhaps later in the year a market will emerge for Saltalamacchia and the Sox can find a taker, and potentially the Red Sox can find a suitable replacement.