Well, it looks like the market might have spoken for the Boston Red Sox, hasn’t it?
There are pros and cons to a team waiting around in free agency for the market to develop, and in the BoSox’ case, the catcher’s market has developed rather quickly: first with Carlos Ruiz re-upping with the Philadelphia Phillies, then with the AL East rival New York Yankees making a considerably bigger splash with the signing of Brian McCann, one of the marquee names in winter’s FA class.
And with that, Jarrod Saltalamacchia has found himself the premier name remaining at backstop … and Boston isn’t the only team looking for a catcher.
In fact, with rumors linking the 28-year-old to Minnesota Twins and multiple teams still looking for a catcher, including the AL West big spender Texas Rangers, whether the Red Sox will be able to sign their 2013 backstop is far from a certainty — even if they want to open up the checkbooks.
That’s to say that while Boston might not have wanted to budge from the reported two years that they offered the free agent, their bargaining leverage is considerably diminished, and it’s perhaps time to deal with the fact that they will probably have to go to the third, if not a fourth year to acquire the best option available … at least for the moment.
Consider the alternatives. The team could go with veteran backup David Ross, but he’s headed towards the twilight years of his careers and hasn’t had more than 200 PA in one season for over a half decade now — so that’s not really viable. Free agent Dioner Navarro is also a platoon/backup type of guy, and in this quickly thinning market, even he’s rumored to be settling on a deal soon, with the Miami Marlins being named as a suitor.
The last guy who might be viable as a starter beyond that is A.J. Pierzynski, who could suit the team’s needs as far as the two-year term goes, setting the Red Sox up to join the Matt Wieters sweepstakes during 2015 … but the problem with that plan is that it assume a whole lot that’s really beyond the team’s control, and Pierzynski doesn’t come with the chemistry that Saltalamacchia has developed with both the pitching staff and within the clubhouse.
In a long-term sense, that latter point wouldn’t be as much of an issue, but with the team’s unique position as defending World Series champs and the pressure that comes with it, short-term moves could come with an extra set of risks.
After that, what’s left the Boston? John Buck? At that point, they’re probably better off trying to acquire somebody through trade, which would unnecessary expend assets from the farm. Even if they might not want to pay for it, Saltalamacchia is quickly emerging as not only the right choice for Boston in this year’s market, but arguably the only choice if they want to put together the team with the best chance to repeat in 2014.
Given the development of the FA scene, and the fact that we’ve seen how even ‘albatross’ contracts are eminently movable, the only question remaining for the Red Sox is … why wait any longer?