Jul 20, 2014; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Braves catcher Gerald Laird (11) celebrates his single with Atlanta Braves first base coach Terry Pendleton (9) in the second inning of their game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Turner Field. The Braves won 8-2.Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
As it stands:
The Red Sox’ starting catching position underwent a fair amount of turmoil in 2014, starting with A.J. Pierzynski taking over for Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who gave the Red Sox excellent production from behind the plate in 2013. Of course, the Pierzynski experiment failed, but all things considered, the catching gig finished in a good place for the Red Sox. Despite some mixed results offensively, Christian Vazquez has firmly cemented himself as the starting catcher for the 2015 season due to his elite defense behind the plate.
Still, backup catcher David Ross’s contract has expired, leaving the Red Sox without a backup catcher. They could go from within, utilizing Dan Butler in that role, but some veteran leadership would be a valuable commodity for a young catcher like Vazquez and that’s what I would seek in a second-string backstop.
Course of action:
Vazquez is the clear starter behind the plate but I’d seek a reliable veteran backup to teach him the intricacies of the position and perhaps contribute a bit on his own.
- Nobody on the free agent market would fit that role better than Gerald Laird, the current backup catcher for the Braves who is a free agent this offseason. Laird, now 34 years old, doesn’t offer much with the bat, slashing a meager .204/.275/.257 in 53 games in Atlanta this season. However, he has carved out a niche as a great backup catcher due to his veteran leadership and good defense. He’s not a flashy acquisition but a necessary one and 1 year/$2M would probably get it done.
The final product:
Signing Laird would give the Red Sox a solid catching tandem with Vazquez as the starting catcher. The Red Sox won’t get much offensive production out of the duo as Laird’s OPS was a career-low .532 in 2014 and Vazquez slashed just .240/.308/.309 as a rookie. However, the two should give the team excellent defense behind the plate and, with a potentially thin pitching staff, that could make all the difference.
The Laird signing will give the Red Sox $17M to patch up other holes on the team.