The Pittsburgh Pirates received some unsettling news on Monday as the team learned that backup catcher Chris Stewart would visit Dr. James Andrews on Wednesday to determine the severity of the injury to the catcher’s right knee. Before the visit to Dr. Andrews, the Pirates fear that Stewart suffered a torn meniscus. A torn meniscus would make surgery inevitable.
If Stewart did tear his meniscus, this leaves the Pirates with two options: give prospect Tony Sanchez the backup catcher job out of Spring Training or bring in a catcher from outside the organization. Other than Stewart, Sanchez and Russell Martin, the Bucs have very little MLB-ready catching depth.
At this point, Sanchez is a better catcher than Stewart anyway, but the Pirates wanted to give Sanchez a chance to play every day in the minor leagues to continue his development. Unless they acquire another catcher, they have no choice but to place Sanchez as the backup catcher.
If the Pirates do decide to look at some opportunities on the trade market and in free agency, there are certainly a few options that would fit nicely in a backup role. The catching free agent market isn’t pretty, but there are some serviceable backups available, particularly Miguel Olivo and Kelly Shoppach. The trade market may be the best way to fill their need, as the New York Yankees are willing to trade Francisco Cervelli and the Boston Red Sox are shopping catching prospect Ryan Lavarnway.
The Red Sox are very interesting as a trade partner with the Pirates. The two teams have made deals before, most notably the deal that sent Joel Hanrahan to the Red Sox in exchange for Mark Melancon and a few prospects, and the Pirates also have some interest in Red Sox first baseman Mike Carp. Maybe the teams can come to an agreement on a larger deal that includes both Lavarnway and Carp. We’ll see what happens over the next few weeks, but the Pirates have plenty of trade chips and the Red Sox have a few players that would fit nicely on the Pirates.