Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Ryan Lavarnway‘s fall from grace as a prospect and then as a player has been one of the most disheartening Red Sox stories in recent years. Lavarnway gained the attention of pundits and fans alike when he crushed 32 home runs between Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket in 2011 and then impressed in a brief cup of coffee in September. Some scouts doubted his defensive prowess behind the plate, but nobody questioned his bat: his calling card that would make him into an MLB slugger sooner rather than later.
Then 2012 happened. The Red Sox had signed Kelly Shoppach to take over as the backup catcher, but Lavarnway was expected to start the year in Triple-A and hit his way to the majors before long. However, that plan fell through. Lavarnway got off to a slow start in Pawtucket, and never really recovered. Though he was able to bring his average back to its usual levels, he had lost much of the power that had made him such an elite prospect– his .439 slugging percentage a far cry from 2011’s .563 mark.
In addition to his loss of power in the minor leaguers, Lavarnway has also never really figured himself out at the big league level. In 291 plate appearances over parts of three seasons, Lavarnway has slashed just .208/.258/.327 with only 5 home runs. Now 26 years old, there’s no guarantee that Lavarnway will ever develop into an everyday player.
With that doubt in mind and a surplus of catching depth, the Red Sox are trying to get some value out of Lavarnway. According to sources, the Red Sox are now actively shopping Lavarnway. Despite his struggles in recent years, Lavarnway could still be an attractive reclamation project for some teams, offering more upside than most backup catchers. Steve Adams of MLB Trade Rumors lists the Pittsburgh Pirates, Chicago White Sox, Arizona Diamondbacks, and Baltimore Orioles as potential trade fits.
The Red Sox likely won’t be in a hurry to trade Lavarnway; he still offers a bit of potential. However, he is currently blocking top catching prospects Blake Swihart and Christian Vazquez and is not likely to find a home in Boston anytime soon. It’s a shame given the hype that surrounded Lavarnway just two years ago, but it’s time to cash in on Lavarnway while he still has any value remaining. Perhaps he will develop into a major leaguer; it likely won’t be with the Red Sox though, and these rumors are an indication of that.