This has been quite the year for the Boston Red Sox. Out of nowhere, they clinched their division and somehow managed to win back an entire fan base that had been alienated over the last year and a month. There have been a few players that are free agents that have become the topic of many discussions as to whether or not they will be coming back. Jacoby Ellsbury has been at the top of that list, of course. Mike Napoli and Stephen Drew are a few other names that have come up quite a bit. However, there is one particular individual who is just as vital to the success of Boston and has had quite the year but has been somewhat unnoticed. That would be their catcher who is also set to be a free agent, Jarrod Saltalamacchia.
Saltalamacchia arrived in Boston back in 2010. He was picked up at the trading deadline, and a lot of people really couldn’t understand why he was acquired at all. He seemed to struggle in every aspect of his game, particularly defensively. With each passing season, however, he has gotten better and better, and if you watch a lot of Red Sox games there seems to be a growing confidence not just from himself but from the pitchers in throwing to him. This may be a bit of a stretch in terms of comparisons, but he reminds me of how Jason Varitek started growing into the position. It took him a few years but it seemed like every year he became more sure of himself until it was obvious he was meant to be the captain of that team. Saltalamacchia is growing in much of the same way, and he hit .273 with 14 home runs and 65 runs batted in during the regular season. Saltalamacchia’s power has been down, but overall he has improved in every other aspect. His defense, which was a serious issue before, has improved quite a bit where you no longer cringe when he tries to throw out a base runner and his accuracy has gotten noticeably better. Pitchers have been raving about his preparation and how he calls a game. He has even managed to steal four bases this season.
Saltalamacchia is the best option for Boston for the time being. Ryan Lavarnway still hasn’t progressed into the catcher they were hoping for. David Ross is a great asset to Boston, but he probably can’t play every day. Christian Vasquez is a great prospect, but he is still a few years away. Saltalamacchia hits extremely well and offers a lot of production. He also is becoming more and more of a leader. While he shouldn’t necessarily be the catcher over the long haul, for the next few years he is a perfectly acceptable choice. Hopefully Boston won’t break the bank to sign him, but I hope that he does return to play for the Red Sox. It has been fun watching him grow every season, and it will be interesting to see what sort of catcher he ends up being.