Jorge Alfaro signing shows Red Sox want competition at catcher position
The Boston Red Sox signed catcher Jorge Alfaro to a minor-league contract this week. The deal is worth $2 million if Alfaro is in the majors, and he can opt out of his contract on June 1 or July 1 if he’s still in the minors.
With Reese McGuire and Connor Wong currently on the major league roster, Alfaro will have to carve out his role on the team. He enters spring training as minor league depth who could claim a backup role, though McGuire likely enters camp as the starting catcher.
Through a seven-year career involving stints with the Phillies, Marlins and Padres, Alfaro has posted a .701 OPS and 89 OPS+ with below average defense. He’s also seen time at first base and left field, though he’s not exactly a legitimate option for either of those positions. Alfaro does possess an excellent arm, however. He had the third-fastest pop time to second base at 1.89 seconds in 2022. Considering McGuire’s average pop time, and the possibility of more stolen bags in 2023 thanks to enlarged bases, Alfaro’s strength could help him secure a roster spot.
In 2022, Alfaro slashed .246/.285/.383 with a .667 OPS and 94 OPS+ in a pitcher-friendly Petco Park in San Diego. Alfaro has shown some solid contact and power in the past, but a lifetime 4.2 BB% will always lower his OBP. Alfaro could be an option as a DH or platoon catcher against left-handed pitchers, as he hit .269/.310/.463 with a .773 OPS in 71 plate appearances against lefties in 2022.
Alfaro has a solid chance of making the Opening Day roster as the team’s backup catcher. His main competition will be 26-year-old Connor Wong, who hasn’t caught on yet in the majors and posted a .585 OPS in 2022. With McGuire and Wong being the only two catchers on the 40-man roster, and Wong having a remaining option, Alfaro could make the cut as he presents an upgrade over 26-year-old.
Overall, it’s a low-risk move for the Red Sox. The free agent catching market is pretty barren, with the only comparable options being Gary Sánchez and Robinson Chirinos. Alfaro offers a potential upgrade over Wong with a below average bat but a strong arm and possible (but not ideal) versatility. This was a smart pickup, and it’s surprising Alfaro didn’t sign a major-league deal elsewhere. There’s a good chance we see Alfaro in a Red Sox uniform at some point in 2023.