As we begin to come down from the euphoria that is all six (seven for us) months of baseball season we need to take a long hard look at the cold reality of the offseason. There are decisions to be made on players that we all know and love such as Alex Cora, The Mayor, and most importantly The Captain. He has been a fixture in the line up and a rock for the pitching staff for the last 11 years. He came to us in the most one sided trade in baseball history (Heathcliff Slocumb for Jason Varitek and Derek Lowe, who we’ll discuss another time) and has mad people love him for all that he does. He has won a Gold Glove, a Silver Slugger and been widely known as a pitching coach on the field and in the locker room. Hell, he is the Captain of the Boston Red Sox.
But this season was his worst at the plate, so bad that he earned himself the nickname Cap’n Rallykill for his ability to, well, kill rallies. He hit .220 for the year and his amazing string of unproductive outs (Ks, Popups, grounders to the pitcher) in the playoffs (yes, we all know he hit a clutch bomb in game 6) has made his glaring lack of productivity even more remarkable. In both games three and four he had chances where a fly out or even a grounder to the right side would have scored a run, but he struck out, and killed a chance for the Sox to maybe start a comeback like in game 5.
The Flip Side of all that is the fact that he is invaluable to a pitching staff, especially a young one like ours (Lester 24, Beckett 27, Wiggler 28, Etc. How awesome is that?). He calls a game so well that pitchers don’t question him. Remember when Schilling had 2 outs in the ninth of a no hitter a couple of years ago? He thought he was smarter than Varitek, shook him off, and the next pitch was hit into center for a hit. Good-Bye No-No. His pitchers know that when he calls a pitch it isn’t based on a hunch, or on some type of predetermined pattern in his mind, but on the strengths and weaknesses of his pitcher and the hitter. Varitek is a machine, he scouts everyone, knows what tendencies they have and how to get them out. When he throws down a sign, his pitchers know that that is the right pitch.
Which leads us to the real problem. Captian Jason Varitek is a free agent. His agent is the soul sucking scum of the earth (Scott Boras), who had a good relationship with Theo & Co. until he convinced the old left fielder to bitch his way out of town. He will want more money and more years for Tek than is prudent on the part of the Sox right now. Adding to the problem is the dearth (vocab word) of good catching available. This year a guy who was a late first round/early second round pick at any other position went 5th in the draft simply because he was a catcher (Buster Posey). It’s getting so bad that Brandon Inge might go back behind the plate (possibly) for Detroit and Craig Biggio might come out of retirement to catch for the Marlins (that one was a lie, but Biggio was originally a catcher. Betcha didn’t remember that one). The Assholes in Pinstripes even traded for an aging and far less effective (without roids) Pudge Rodriguez when Posada (who they had already over paid) went down. It used to be that you had to have a quality catcher before you could do anything, and there were enough good catchers out there that a fill in wouldn’t completely debilitate your club. (Hey, Puerto Rico. got any more Molina Brothers down there?) Now, there aren’t enough catchers to go around, and one who has the defensive and pitch calling ability of our Captain, let alone a younger one.
That leaves us with a few options. (there are many more but these are my favorites)
1. Russell Martin. The Sox are in the very enviable position of having an enormous amount of young talent in their control for a long time. Players like Buccholz, Michael Bowden and Lowrie (yup) are all pieces that can be moved and are valuable to clubs like the Dodgers with holes to fill. As are people like Coco, Lugo (whose contract the sox would need to swallow. More on the curse of Nomar coming soon), and even Mike Lowell (should the Sox land Teixiera) are proven MLB commodities that can give production to an NL team. This said, the Dodgers are seeing what they can get for the young, talented and coachable Martin, and Buster Olney says the Sox are interested. Why not? He was a Gold Glove winner last year (this year’s winners have not been announced) and handles the bat well (.285 avg, .373 obp, .806 ops). He is the kind of guy who could replace Tek for years to come but will cost the Sox in prospects and current players. In this scenario, Tek ends up finishing his career somewhere else, which is unfortunate.
2. Jarrod Saltalamacchia. The owner of the Longest Name in MLB history, a wife who used to be a teacher at his High School (14 years older but not his teacher) and every my little pony ever (I made that part up). He has the ability to hit as an every day catcher, but has not made the leap. He spent most of this season in the minors, so that he could get the chance to catch every day, after Gerald Laird won the Rangers starting job out of spring training. He would be the every day guy for the Braves but Brian McCann was ahead of him and is nasty (no chance).This is a guy who I have been watching for a few years and if her were to come here and apprentice (that should actually be his title, Apprentice Catcher) under Tek for a couple of years (he’s 24) and learn the defensive side of the game as well as he projects with the bat then he could also be a long term answer. (This is my choice, and it means we can bring Tek back.)
3. Keep Tek and figure it out later. Look, we all know that Kevin Cash is not the answer. Tek is the key to our pitching staff (if you don’t think we’d be screwed without him, see 2002, 2006) and if the Sox can get him to come back at, say, 2 yrs, $8 Mil per, they’d be stupid not to. (Yes, this is more than he is worth in dollars, but there is an asshole tax when dealing with Boras) he could be a mentor to someone young like Salty (or anyone else the Sox find) and also finish his career in an honorable way with the team that made him it’s captain and that he helped win two rings.
I truly have no idea what will happen with this one, but I trust in Theo and know that he will do the best with a bad (read: really f@#$ing bad) situation. It’s their top priority and it’ll become clearer in the next few weeks but for right now we are left in limbo. tonight, I’m gonna lay back, watch Pushing Daises (really good, if creepy, show) and the new South Park as I wish that Kazmir’s arm falls off and Maddon’s stupid mohawk gets stuck in something. Go Phillies.