Reporting Dan Roche
If the Red Sox are going to hand the starting catching job to Jarrod Saltalamacchia, I want them to bring back Jason Varitek too.
I think Varitek, who will turn 39 in April, would be the perfect mentor for Saltalamacchia. He also can help as a back-up catcher with his knowledge and experience. His body also seemed to respond to the part-time duties last season after years of wear and tear as the every day catcher.
Varitek also seemed to continue to relish the role of back-up catcher. You also should be able to sign him for $3-million or so after the Sox didn’t offer him arbitration.
Meanwhile, Saltalamacchia and Varitek also seem to have some things in common when it comes to their career paths. Varitek basically started his big league career at age 26. Saltalamacchia turns 26 next May.
At age 25, here were Varitek’s minor league numbers:
349 games, .248 BA, .339 OBP, .400 SLG, Throwing out runners pct. 29%
At age 25, here are Saltalamacchia’s minor league numbers:
469 games, .271 BA, .366 OBP, .458 SLG, Throwing out runners pct. 24%
Now, a couple of sidenotes on those numbers which I got from www.baseball-reference.com, Tek had 12 at-bats on rehab stints with Pawtucket while it appears some of the numbers weren’t there on Salatalamacchia’s percentage rate of throwing out basestealers.
I’m not saying Saltalamacchia is the next Jason Varitek, but it’s interesting that Tek began his major league journey at the age of 26 with Boston after being acquired at the trade deadline in 1997 from Seattle(along with Derek Lowe) in exchange for reliever Heathcliff Slocumb.
In 1998, Tek appeared in 86 games for the Red Sox where he hit .253 with 7 HR and 33 RBI, with an OBP of .309 and a SLG of .407. He threw out baserunners at the rate of 28%. He then became the team’s full-time catcher in 1999 and never looked back.
As for Saltalamacchia, he’s had 4 seasons of major league appearances where he’s had to battle through injuries and some throwing issues. However, he is similar to Varitek in that he is a switch-hitter, has some power, can throw runners out, and seems to work well with a pitching staff. He’ll be 26 this season. Both were also first round draft picks.
Meanwhle, it appears the best plan for Boston is to add a veteran(Tek) to the mix for this season with an eye on Saltalamacchia becoming the full-time catcher in 2012.
That would also seem to fall in line with Theo Epstein’s “bridge plan”.