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Sunday, December 5, 2010

Martinez, Saltalamacchia, Varitek

So the Sox did not match the Tigers’ offer. Another $8 million over 4 years. Martinez had been insisting that he is a catcher, a catcher who is able to play 1B and DH. Now that he has signed with the Tigers, reports come out that he will be playing a lot of 1B and DH besides catcher. Statistics indicate that catchers on the north end of 30 years of age start to go on a serious decline. He already has a low percentage of throwing out stolen base runners. Given his insistence that he is a catcher at the earliest reports of his negotiations with the Red Sox, it doesn’t surprise me a whole lot that the Sox did take a pass on him. I find it very interesting and odd that he will be getting a fair amount of time at 1B and DH in Detroit. Would the Sox have matched the Tigers’ offer had he not insisted that he is a catcher above all else? No one doubts his conditioning, work ethic, and positive club house presence. Estimates give Martinez 2 more good years at catching before he goes on a decline and becomes an overpaid 1st baseman and designated hitter at the amount the Tigers’ lavished upon him. While his positive attributes and current production will be missed by many, including myself, Theo decided that it wouldn’t be worth it (Werth it?) to keep him as a catcher for 2 years before moving him over to his other positions. Let’s not forget that Theo has a hell of a lot more resources available to him than 99% of those criticizing this non-move.

This leads to a discussion on the vacancy at the starting catcher position as a result of Martinez’s departure. Jarrod Saltalamacchia has been on Theo’s radar for some time now, and he finally landed him. Many criticize the possibility of Salty becoming the starting catcher. They say he doesn’t have enough experience, he’s injury prone, he’s too young, he didn’t hit worth a crap before he went on the DL again, yadda… Salty was the Opening Day catcher for the Texas Rangers in 2009 and 2010, the American League pennant winning Texas Rangers. That’s how highly that organization thought of him. He did have a series of unfortunate injuries, but so did Jed Lowrie and he got past them. Lowrie was on fire after he returned to Boston from the DL! His numbers after his return to the line-up projected over a whole season makes him out to be a solid middle of the line-up batter. But back to Salty. Yes, Salty had lousy batting numbers in this past season, but the sample size was very small. Again, Theo has all those resources that we don’t have, including Tito, and Gary Tuck (bullpen coach.) They can see things in him we don’t. When Salty heard the news that Martinez had signed with the Tigers, he realized that he had a serious shot at becoming the starting catcher for the 2011 Boston Red Sox. He will be working very hard with Tuck very soon in preparation for Spring Training auditions.

Now there have been reports of the Sox kicking tires on other catchers, and it is possible that they may sign one of them still left on the market. But if they don’t, the logical choice would be Jason Varitek. ‘Tek seemed to thrive in his role as mentor to Martinez, and he can do the same for Salty, too. Many simply look at his statistics and yell to get rid of the 39 yo dead weight, but there is so much more to ‘Tek than simply his statistics. He studies opposing batters and his own team’s pitchers like no other catcher. He retains so much information about him in what must be a minimum of 2T memory in that hard drive above his shoulders. He calls games so well, that he has caught 4 no-hitters in his career. He has commanded much respect from all of his teammates, hence the ‘C’ on his jersey. And his batting statistics improved in a part time role. Before his injury that landed him on the DL back at the beginning of July, he was sporting a BA/OBP/SLG/OPS line of .263/.324/.547/.871 in 95 ABs, which overall is slightly better than his career averages, and a definite improvement over his lines of the past 5 years. Part time duty seems to do him well.

Salty will be closely watched during his work outs with Tuck this winter. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Sox do not make any catching trades or signings this winter. Varitek is to the Red Sox as Jeter is to the Yankees, 14 years MLB service with only 1 team compared to Jeter’s 16 years, to date. It would serve both well the Sox and ‘Tek to remain together for 1 more year. If Salty was good enough to start for the Rangers last season and proves himself worthy over the course of his winter training, and if ‘Tek thrives at the plate in a part time role, why not retain their services in the same roles for the 2011 Boston Red Sox?

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