With the team looking to trade a catcher before the start of the season, Alex Cora said he’d be “comfortable” with Juan Centeno as the No. 3 backstop.
While the Sox will probably enter the season with two catchers on the roster, they would need a third option in case of an injury or another trade. Juan Centeno has emerged from the three non-roster invitees as the most likely man to assume that position.
Cora and Centeno first established a relationship as World Series champions with the 2017 Astros. They also share Puerto Rican heritage.
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Centeno has slashed .227/.228/.331/.609 In 111 Major League games over parts of six seasons with the Mets, Brewers, Twins, Astros, and Rangers.
Centeno’s contract also plays a major role because he is already out of minor league options. He would have to pass through waivers in order to be assigned to Pawtucket. With catchers at a premium all over the league, it is more likely than not that another major league team would pick up Centeno off waivers.
If this scenario happens, the Red Sox have other options from the non-roster invitees pool. Óscar Hernández and Austin Rei, both much younger at just 25 years old, could both start the season as emergency options in Pawtucket.
Hernández, originally from Venezuela, has appeared in the Majors for the Diamondbacks, but not since 2015-16. He also batted a low .167, though he is known for his defense after throwing out 43 percent of base-stealers in the Minors.
Hernandez also served a 50-game suspension in 2018 for his second drug abuse violation, which should be a concern.
Rei, drafted in the third round in 2015 out of Washington, is a much more well-rounded talent. He batted .249 with seven home runs for Double-A Portland and is also well-known for his defense.
It is still undecided if and when the Red Sox will trade a catcher. All that is known is Dombrowski is listening to offers for all three and a deal is likely.
The two catchers that will remain will be head and shoulders above Centeno, Hernández, and Rei. However, it is always important to have emergency options ready to step up.
The battle between these three non-roster invitees throughout Spring Training will be fierce and competitive. It should continue into the minor league regular season and may be one of the Red Sox’s most interesting under-the-radar position battles.