A closer look at how Red Sox view Jarrod Saltalamacchia and the catching market

Rob Bradford
November 12, 2013 - 5:02 am

ORLANDO -- Everybody is waiting. The conversation heading into the general managers' meetings centered on how the influx of television money into Major League Baseball might push the offseason. Would the cash be thrown around immediately, making for a spicier-than-normal November? Doesn't look that way. After one day at the GM meetings, the conversation tilted to how with so much money available, free agents are content in sitting back and waiting for the absolute best offer to come down the pike. In other words, they don't want to be the ones taking less and then watching the next guy reap the rewards of this cash-heavy offseason. And, according to multiple baseball executives, the one position that is perhaps most reliant on a shoe to drop is at catcher. This is where we are at: Brian McCann is the big-ticket item, reportedly looking for as much as a five-year deal. He will, however, require draft pick compensation. The Red Sox like McCann, but are hesitant to extend to the kind of years another team might offer. When asked about the 29-year-old late Monday night, one general manager flat-out said, "He's going to end up with the Yankees." And there you have the prevailing opinion around baseball. New York needs that type of player, they have plenty of money to spend and they likely will get at least one draft pick back (from Curtis Granderson, Robinson Cano or Hiroki Kuroda) to off-set the pick potentially lost when inking McCann. That leads us to the next-best catcher on the free agent market, Jarrod Saltalamacchia. The Red Sox had serious conversations about extending Saltalamacchia the one-year, $14.1 million qualifying offer, but in the end felt the annual average was simply too much of an overpay when considering how they valued the catcher. (There was a prevailing thought in the organization that he would accept the offer.) The Red Sox also understand fully, after making the decision, that because of some teams' need for the kind of skill-set the 28-year-old can deliver (power bat), it is a very real possibility the Sox have said "see you later" to the best chance of bringing back Saltalamacchia. Yes, the Red Sox are aware that a short-term bridge to Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart can be a viable strategy (although asking young catchers to jump right into the major leagues can be a dicey proposition, no matter the talent level). It's just that the cost of having Saltamacchia be the guy at the qualifying offer price was deemed to much. Saltalmacchia is still one of the buzzed-about names at the GM meetings thus far, with the White Sox and Twins (and some mention of the Yankees) being mentioned. While the Red Sox might not be valuing the catcher as much as some other teams -- at a time when, it's worth noting, their long-term outlook at the position is better than that of most other clubs -- Saltalamacchia doesn't figure to be a tough sell. He is fairly young, seemingly improving defensively, had the third-most extra-base hits of any backstop in baseball and finished as one of six catchers with a better-than-.800 OPS. And there are plenty of teams who have some sort of opening at their catching position. In short, despite the stated interest in Saltalmacchia, the Red Sox are preparing to move on. Hence, the continued surfacing of names such as Carlos Ruiz, Dioner Navarro and A.J. Pierzynski. "There's a bunch of teams that seemingly have a need or a potential need, and there are a bunch of guys out there," Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington said. "I think it will be one of the more interesting positions to watch, because there's likely to be activity there, and potentially some trades, too, not just free agency. We'll see. It's obviously a position that we may want to look to do something with. We're going to keep talking [to] all the available options and see what comes our way."