BSI roundtable: Who will be the Red Sox catchers in 2015?


Following Jarrod Saltalamacchia‘s departure for Miami and A.J. Pierzynski‘s uninspiring tenure as Red Sox backstop, a new hope emerged from behind the plate for the Red Sox in 2014 and dazzled fans with his defense. But the question remains…

Who will be the Red Sox catchers in 2015?

Conor Duffy: Christian Vazquez and Gerald Laird

After an impressive showing in his first 55 games as the starting catcher in Boston, Vazquez is expected to start behind the plate in 2015. Vazquez wasn’t great at the plate, slashing just .240/.308/.309, but that was completely overshadowed by his phenomenal defense. His throwing prowess has been known for years and it was confirmed in his brief showing this season as he caught 52% of potential base stealers. In addition, there’s reason to believe he can improve at the plate; his career Minor League slash line is .265/.344/.392 and, while his power suffered under Major League exposure, his plate discipline stayed strong and his hitting skills should improve as he ages.

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As solid as Vazquez has the potential to be, both this upcoming season and further in the future, he won’t be able to start 162 games and the Red Sox will have to acquire a backup. Laird has the potential to be excellent in a limited role as the Red Sox’ backup catcher as he is fantastic defensively and has a career .244/.305/.353 slash line, not great but passable for a backup catcher. He would also bring a leadership quality reminiscent of incumbent backup catcher David Ross. This duo of catchers wouldn’t generate much offense but their defensive skill should be enough to override that.

Joe Meehan: Vazquez and Geovany Soto

Vazquez goes into 2015 as the clear-cut number one. While his numbers at the plate leave a little something to be desired, his defense is a game-changer. Most scouts think he has the chance to develop into at least a decent hitter, with a Yadier Molina ceiling at the plate. As for the backup spot, I’m not comfortable with another year of Ross, no matter how good of a clubhouse presence he is. So I think the Sox will bring in someone like Soto on a one year deal. Soto is excellent at throwing out runners and can provide some offense when needed. Health is certainly a concern, but Dan Butler and, potentially, Blake Swihart can provide insurance in case of injury.

Rick McNair: Vazquez and Brayan Pena

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Vazquez has certainly lived up to all the hype regarding his defense but now comes the hitting. Will he be able to hit in the .250 range? In his short stay, he showed the ability to be a rather tough out when some positive was needed. Hitting the ball to move a runner over or getting that fly ball. Vazquez fully realizes his limitations and works at making every at-bat a learning experience. The normal move would be to have David Ross return but his offensive abilities are nil.

So where to find a bat? Internally, Butler does not appear to be that bat.  Swihart is maybe a year or two away. For the trade market, I would look at the Reds’ Pena. Since I didn’t get  enough dysfunction with A.J. I’d look to free agent Soto.  Soto can hit, smoke weed and play tepid defense.  A typical Red Sox one-year reclamation project. Laird, also with an arrest record, is another FA possibility. Laird is coming off a horrid season and has little power. Ryan Doumit, J.P. Arencibia and a few other free agents all have some serious question marks. I’d try to get Pena in trade and maybe take a flyer on Soto.

Sean Sylver: Vazquez and John Buck

Boy, am I ever excited for the start of the Swihart era. He’s looked good everywhere he’s gone, but last year was his first year above A-ball, so it’s going to take some time. I’m also a huge fan of Vazquez for the reasons Rick enumerated above. His audition last year was more than enough for me to hand him the keys; hopefully, we have a Varitek/Hatteberg situation on our hands here with ample talent behind the plate in the years to come.

That said, Vazquez needs a veteran partner who can bop. Buck is that guy: he hit 15 homers a year ago before (surprise!) struggling last season with Seattle and getting released. The Angels picked him up and he wasn’t able to supplant Chris Iannetta.

That’s OK. The Sox don’t need Russell Martin or a starter-caliber catcher. The rest of the free agent landscape is a wasteland: Laird, Soto and Doumit all had throwaway 2014 seasons. But Buck is a former All-Star with 134 career home runs and a great defensive reputation. He’s only 34. There’s something left in that tank. Bring Buck to Boston.