As I type this, Jason Varitek currently has a triple slash line of .252/.338/.435 good enough for a wOBA of .343. For a catcher, this is actually a pretty damn good batting line. He's played in less than half Boston's games so far, but so what? He's supposed to be the backup guy this year.
Jason Varitek needs to retire at the end of this year.
My reasons for making this statement are threefold: 1) I believe that Jason makes a better mentor for players like Saltalamacchia and Lavarnway as a coach than as a player. 2) Jason needs coaching experience in both the major and minor leagues so that he can begin his managing career as soon as 2014. 3) I, and I'm sure I'm not alone in this, cannot emotionally handle one of my favorite Red Sox ending his career in the same fashion as Ken Griffey Jr. or Randy Johnson.
Playing in a game takes a lot of mental preparation, especially for a catcher. There are notes about batters to go over with your pitcher, notes about the opposing pitcher to go over so you aren't lost at the plate, you must make a game plan, visualize all 27 outs, and be pumped and ready by gametime. I believe it is the toughest job in baseball. As a coach, I believe Jason can alleviate these burdens in Boston's younger catchers. He can compile notes about opposing batter in the same manner that he did as a player, then go over them with the catchers on the roster. He can guide them when talking to their pitchers, and ultimately, guide the younger pitchers into what we all want behind the plate: younger, possibly better-hitting, versions of Jason.
Terry Francona has two options left on his contract according to Cot's Baseball Contracts. If Theo decides that Tito is the guy for the next couple of years, he can pick up those options and keep Tito in Boston through 2013. After that, Theo faces a decision, extend the manager who brought the first two World Series championships in 86 years to Boston, or allow a manager who relies overly on veterans, has trouble managing a bullpen, but is great at managing people to walk. I personally prefer the latter, I love Tito for everything he's done since 2004, but he has to be one of the most infuriating managers in the majors. Besides that, I believe that with a few years of seasoning, the Red Sox could have a better option to manage in Jason Varitek.
Ken Griffey Jr went out in possibly the worst way possible for a truly great player. He hadn't been productive since 2005, and produced negative fWAR value in '06 '07 '08 and '10. He put up a full negative fangraphs win in 2010 even though he only played in 33 games. Over the last three years, Jason has not been good, but he also has not directly hurt the team in the same manner that Griffey has. Tek has been one of my favorite Sox since I started following them, and it would kill me emotionally to watch him drag his career along in the same manner thad Griffey did.
For these three reasons, I beg and plead of you Jason, hang 'em up after this year. We all love you, but it's time.