If the Red Sox make only one transaction this offseason, chances are they’re going to acquire a starting catcher. Most are looking at the free agent market as the likely scenario. As of right now, the three top possibilities on the FA market are re-signing Jarrod Saltalamacchia, ponying up for Brian McCann, or bringing in AJ Pierzynski for a season or two. Dioner Navarro
is also a possibility, but recent reports indicate he's further down on the Red Sox list of candidates.
Sep 15, 2013; Minneapolis, MN, USA; The Minnesota Twins designated hitter Ryan Doumit (9) in the dugout before the game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Target Field. Twins win 6-4. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
But if the club were to run out of options or not agree to a reasonable contract on the FA market, the Red Sox can also pursue the trade market for a new starting catcher.
With their recent signing of Brayan Pena, the Cincinatti Reds are likely to trade incumbent backstop Ryan Hanigan. Hanigan would be a decent addition. He has an excellent eye at the plate which results in a good OBP (.359 for his career) and walks more than he strikes out (189/159). Hanigan is also an excellent defensive catcher with a career caught stealing percentage of 40%.
On the down side: Aside from the on-balls skills, Hanigan hasn’t been a great offensive contributor in his career. He only averages 44 runs scored, 47 RBI, and seven home runs over 162 games. A significant number of his walks are also intentional. A lot of these numbers are a result of playing on a NL team where he usually bats right before the starting pitcher. Hanigan could probably see a boost in run and RBI totals in Boston, but he will be pitched to more frequently. Add the fact that he is also a right-handed bat, the Red Sox might prefer a catcher who bats from the left side and is a sure thing with the bat.
There is a candidate who matches those attributes who the Sox could look to trade for. He’s also currently on a small market midwest team. The Sox just need to look a little further northwest to Minneapolis. There they can find an intriguing switch-hitter who could help them in 2014: Ryan Doumit.
Doumit has traditionally been a better hitter from the left side in his career (he was better from the right side in 2013), but he puts respectable enough numbers on both sides. Defensively, he’ll put up a CS% just a few points below the league average, but that’s usually good enough (especially if he can provide enough offense). Doumit is also a versatile player, having spent time at the corner outfield and first base. If the club is unable to re-sign Mike Napoli and settles with Daniel Nava at first (this is assuming they bring in a FA outfielder as well), Doumit could see some time at first against some of the tougher left-handed pitchers. Doumit was also a finalist for the Heart and Hustle Award. So he’s the type of player who would fit nicely in the Boston clubhouse and will be very appealing to fans.
Like Hanigan, Doumit is also coming off a down season where he still did hit 14 home runs. Doumit’s owed $3.5 million in 2014. Hanigan made $2.05 million in 2013, but will see a boost in pay through arbitration. The 2014 salary will still probably be within the neighborhood of what Doumit will be making. Neither guy will likely require a huge haul in terms of prospects. Bryce Brentz, though he has good power potential, he’s also impatient at the plate which may never solidify a regular role in Boston. But an expensive right-handed power bat should be really appealing to clubs like the Reds and Twins. Ryan Lavarnway could also have some appeal at least to the Twins since he can get at-bats as a DH. Maybe a package of one or both could land them a new catcher.
For all the talk over giving free agent catchers big contracts well over their market value, the trade market features some solid options who could be brought in at a reasonable cost. Hopefully the Red Sox push the right buttons in terms of solving the catching issue for 2014.