In an absolutely dismal 2012 season, the Boston Red Sox were bad in all phases of the game. The pitching was poor, the defense was shaky, and the hitting was abysmal. In fact, it was catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia who surprisingly led the team with 25 home runs, even though he played in just 121 games.
The Red Sox couldn’t have been all that impressed though, as they spent the early part of free agency bringing in two new catchers—David Ross and Mike Napoli. This spawned a series of trade rumors in November suggesting that Saltalamacchia was on his way out of Boston. The buzz came to halt though, when a serious hip injury was discovered during Napoli’s team physical—news that eventually forced the Sox to scrap the idea of Napoli catching at all during the upcoming season.
I’m sure Saltalamacchia fully understands the business side of baseball, having been traded twice already in his six-year career. Still though, he had to have been miffed by the Red Sox’ initial insistence upon replacing him.
The 27-year-old has seemingly come into camp with something to prove, evidenced by his spring training stats to date. Saltalamacchia is hitting .345 in 12 Grapefruit League games and has a very impressive OPS of 1.045. The switch-hitter has a home run and five RBI, and he’s racked up 18 total bases in just 29 at-bats.
Ross, who was brought in as a defense-first style catcher, has struggled at the plate this spring. He’s hitting just .059 (1-17) in 9 games. At this point it’s clear that the Red Sox need Saltalamacchia’s bat in their lineup. As a backup, Ross is an excellent upgrade from what the team had last season, but he shouldn’t be expected to play a major role in 2013.
(JM Catellier is the author of the book Fixing Baseball, a guide to restructuring the Hall of Fame. Follow him on Twitter: @FixingBaseball and Facebook, and check out his site: www.fixingbaseball.com)