The Boston Red Sox expected catching competition looks like it is over before spring training even begins.
For reasons that I am not quite sure of, Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington is quoted by Peter Abraham as stating the Sox catching duo to start the season will likely be David Ross and Jarrod Saltalamacchia.
Cherington is quoted as saying “Right now I think our expectations [are] Salty and Ross, they’re the two proven guys.”
Even if that is what the Sox had planned privately, it makes little sense to announce it to the press right before the team meets for spring training.
The Red Sox desperately need competition. Boston needs to get rid of the sense of entitlement that has taken over the team clubhouse the past couple of seasons. Young players need to come to camp trying to force the brass into making tough decisions by wowing them in spring training games.
It was obvious when the Red Sox inked Ross that a change was going to happen behind the plate. All winter it has felt that Saltalamacchia could be dealt to fill other needs and prospect Ryan Lavarnway was going to have to come to camp and take someone’s job.
Ross was just acquired, so he was going to be here no matter what happened this spring. Ross should have a substantial impact on the Boston pitching staff.
Saltalamacchia has been given the opportunity to earn the starting job the last two seasons and he simply has been unable to claim the job. Saltalamacchia is a high-effort guy, has good power and seems to be a good team player.
But, the Red Sox pitching staff has regressed under his watch behind the plate. Last season Saltalamaachia’s power produced 25 home runs, but that came at a cost of heavy strikeouts, low OBP, underperforming pitching staff and his very average defense.
Not sure the positives outweigh the negatives at this point.
Lavarnway has been a productive player in the minors offensively, but this announcement could cast doubt on his future with the team. Defensively, he is a work in progress. But, he could benefit from having a veteran like Ross tutor him at the major league level.
Having an open competition could have pushed both players to reach the vast potential that the Red Sox have seen in both young catchers. Having a catching surplus when catching is one of the weakest positions in the game could only have helped the Red Sox.
Part of this is simply trade value. The Red Sox figure to have a commodity that they could sell high on.
Cutting the market immediately and handing someone a job before spring training has started doesn’t seem like a good decision, especially given the performance of the team the last season.
You can reach Jonathan Cullen:
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Writing about the Boston Red Sox at www.baseballslate.com