Greg M. Cooper-US PRESSWIRE
The Red Sox have brought in David Ross, and could both add Mike Napoli and remove Jarrod Saltalamacchia from the equation. But does the plan behind the plate end even end there?
Earlier today, Marc Normandin brought up the possibility that the Red Sox could bankrupt the catching market by signing Mike Napoli up to play (primarily) first base, thus helping to inflate the price of Jarrod Saltalamacchia in a potential trade.
Allow me to take this a step further. I'm a big fan of Napoli. In my ideal world, I had him playing something of a Victor Martinez hybrid role with Justin Morneau taking over the rest of the time at first, but of course the ideal is rarely the reality. The Sox seem to view the man as a first baseman, and that's fine as well. They can pick him up at first and trade Salty away as Marc suggests. In fact, I hope they do.
I just don't think that will be the end of the story at catcher.
In this specific scenario, we're left with a catching trio of Ryan Lavarnway, David Ross, and Mike Napoli, with Napoli likely getting the least time and Lavarnway the most. What makes me think this isn't in Boston's plans? The fact that they showed interest in Russell Martin before signing Ross. First off, Martin is not a backup catcher, but a starter. There's no way to look at the state of the position and assume otherwise. If they were interested in Martin, they were interested in him to start, not as a backup.
Not only that, but they were presumably not interested in having him start with Ryan Lavarnway as his backup. After all, both of them are right-handed hitters with some pretty significant splits. It doesn't make a ton of sense to jump through hoops to put them together. Keep in mind, also, that Salty was already being shopped at this point, so it's not likely that they were hoping for a Martin - Saltalamacchia pairing.
Add in the fact that Ryan Lavarnway was about as adept behind the plate as Daisuke Matsuzaka was on the mound last year, and I just don't see it happening. I don't see Ryan Lavarnway starting the season in the majors, barring injury. It may seem like it's past time given age and his appearing as far back as 2011, but the fact is that a player is ready for the jump when he's ready for the jump, and Lavarnway doesn't seem to be. He would certainly not be the first catcher to make the jump late. They have a lot more to learn than other players, after all.
No, I would be surprised if the Sox didn't add another full-fledged catcher in the coming weeks and months. It may or may not be Martin. While he would seem like a good fit between his bat and glove, David Ross' even splits make it easy to pair him off with other options, scarce though they may be. One way or another, though, I expect Ben Cherington's plan behind the plate extends beyond the group of players the Sox have right now.