It was rumored earlier in the week that the Red Sox and former catcher Jason Varitek were close to an agreement that would bring him into the organization. What wasn't known then, though, was just what that job was going to be. His role has been clarified now, with the former captain of the Red Sox named the Special Assistant to the General Manager.
This gig is a jack-of-all-trades kind, as Varitek will serve in many roles, at many levels. General manager Ben Cherington said Varitek, "will be involved in a number of areas including Major League personnel decisions, evaluations, and mentorship and instruction of young players." Essentially, it sounds as if Varitek will do some scouting for the organization (even if it's just within the system), while working with players at various minor-league levels in order to better prepare them for a major-league career. His voice will also be included in the current group of the front office that makes decisions about the big-league club. It's a lot to handle, but Varitek was always considered a very intelligent player, one with a future in the game, so it's not a surprise to see him begin his post-playing career in a role like this.
Varitek was drafted by the Seattle Mariners, but was traded to the Red Sox before ever appearing in the majors, along with pitcher Derek Lowe. Varitek would play all 15 seasons of his major-league career with Boston, amassing 1,488 games behind the plate, with a career line of .256/.341/.435. He received MVP votes in three seasons -- 2003, 2004, and 2005 -- made three All-Star teams, and won both the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger award for catchers in 2005, when he hit .281/.366/.489 with 22 homers in 133 games. Varitek was recently named the "first reserve" catcher on the All-Fenway team, behind Hall of Famer Carlton Fisk.
Putting a former player in this kind of role is becoming more common, and is likely a step towards getting back on the field as a manager, if the player desires that rather than a future in the front office. Essentially, getting to see how a front office operates, after already knowing how baseball works on the field, allows a person to see both sides of a manager's role, understanding the two groups that need to be reported to. The mentoring and instruction of young players would also serve as training for an eventual management role, as would input on personnel decisions.
John Farrell is a former player who then worked in a front office before becoming a pitching coach with the Red Sox then manager of the Blue Jays. The Red Sox used to have former player Craig Shipley as part of their front office, before he was let go after Theo Epstein's departure. Brad Ausmus is another former catcher who is now in the same role as Varitek, with the Padres: he's been mentioned as a potential manager for someone in need of one, and has even been rumored as a possiblel hire for the Red Sox. Former Red Sox Mark Loretta also works for the Padres as a special assistant, Rocco Baldelli works for Tampa Bay, and Varitek's former teammate, Bill Mueller, is in a similar role with the Dodgers, as are Luis Vizcaino and Aaron Sele. Craig Counsell works for the Brewers in this role, Eric Davis with the Reds, Todd Greene with the Diamondbacks... it's something there's a whole lot of in the majors now, and Varitek is part of it.