Red Sox find their new backup catcher by free agent Kevin Plawecki

CLEVELAND, OHIO - JULY 21: Kevin Plawecki #27 of the Cleveland Indians hits an RBI single during the sixth inning against the Kansas City Royals at Progressive Field on July 21, 2019 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OHIO - JULY 21: Kevin Plawecki #27 of the Cleveland Indians hits an RBI single during the sixth inning against the Kansas City Royals at Progressive Field on July 21, 2019 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /
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The Boston Red Sox have reportedly agreed to terms with free-agent catcher Kevin Plawecki who is now poised to take over a backup role.

The Boston Red Sox have spent this winter sifting through the bargain bin to fill holes on their roster with the latest find addressing their vacancy for the backup catcher role.

According to Robert Murray, the Red Sox are in agreement with free-agent catcher Kevin Plawecki. It’s expected to be a major league deal worth $900,000, per Bob Nightengale of USA Today.

The 28-year old spent the first four years of his career with the New York Mets before spending last season with the Cleveland Indians. He was non-tendered by Cleveland when they found him to be expendable following their trade for… Sandy Leon.

Wait, so the Red Sox signed a guy who the Indians let go because they felt Leon was an upgrade? That’s hardly encouraging.

The Red Sox designated Sam Travis for assignment to clear a spot on the 40-man roster for Plawecki. Travis was out of minor league options and faced competition at first base from Michael Chavis and Bobby Dalbec. Without a clear path to playing time, the DFA was inevitable. It’s possible that Travis could land in Pawtucket to remain with the organization if he goes unclaimed.

Plawecki is a former first-round pick who was once a highly coveted prospect in the Mets farm system but he’s yet to live up to those lofty expectations.

He isn’t going to impress anyone with his bat but his .222/.287/.342 slash line last season is an improvement over what Leon produced the last few years. Plawecki has never come close to showcasing the upside Leon provided in his breakout 2016 season (.310/.369/.476) but the last three years have proven that to be a fluke. Plawecki can’t be much worse at the plate than the current version of Leon.

There shouldn’t be much of a dropoff behind the plate. Leon has long been known as a great defensive catcher but last year he recorded 0 defensive runs saved in 65 games. Plawecki tallied 1 DRS in 57 games. Plawecki has an unimpressive 23% caught stealing rate for his career which he’s matched in each of the last two seasons. Leon was once elite in that category, boasting a 34% rate for his career, but he dipped dramatically to 26% in 2018 and 21% last season.

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Baseball Prospectus ranked Plawecki 14th among MLB catchers with 7.8 Fielding Runs Above Average last season. That’s tied with Christian Vazquez and well ahead of Leon (2.9 FRAA).

Where Leon will be missed most is his rapport with the pitching staff. He was a well-respected veteran with a reputation for calling a great game from behind the plate. It’s not that Plawecki can’t do the same, he simply hasn’t developed that same connection with anyone on the current Red Sox staff. We’ll have to see how he works with certain pitchers during spring training.

Leon had been a security blanket for Chris Sale, with the ace showing drastic splits compared to when he worked with Vazquez. Those splits are unfair to Vazquez, a strong defensive catcher in his own right, but there’s something to be said about a pitcher’s comfort level with his battery mate. If Sale can’t find a groove with Vazquez and struggles to connect with the newcomer Plawecki, who is he supposed to throw to?

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Plawecki isn’t the type of free-agent signing fans will get excited about but he’s an acceptable replacement for Leon. He’s a couple of years younger, under team control for three years and will make less than what Leon is expected to earn in arbitration. That fits the mold for what the Red Sox were seeking from a backup catcher.