On Monday, we learned that the Red Sox are making Ryan Lavarnway readily available to prospective buyers. This came as a surprise to exactly no one who has seen Lavarnway play over the past few years, or who has an understanding of the Red Sox depth chart right now. Christian Vasquez and Dan Butler have surpassed Lavarnway in terms of being next in line for MLB catching duties. Mike Carp, Daniel Nava and possibly even Alex Hassan have surpassed Lavarnway on the first base depth chart. Whether you view Lavarnway as a catcher who can't really catch or a first baseman who can't really hit, it's pretty clear that he's not going to get any playing time on a team that expects to compete for another World Series title this year.
Yet despite Lavarnway's glaring deficiencies, there are plenty of teams with no expectations for the 2014 season who can afford to give the 26-year-old a shot. Any return for Lavarnway would be minimal - think a middle reliever "prospect" or an org depth guy - but if Boston is truly motivated to move him to open up a spot on the 40-man roster, odds are they'll be able to do so. For as flawed as Lavarnway may be, some of the first base/catcher depth charts for other organizations are, to put it lightly, soul-crushing in their lack of upside.
With that in mind, here are some possible landing spots for Lavarnway should the Sox truly push to move him:
Chicago White Sox
There might not be a team with a gloomier outlook at the catcher position than the White Sox, who have Tyler Flowers starting, Adrian Nieto as a backup, and Josh Phelgy as the next man up in Triple-A. While Lavarnway has plenty of work to do behind the plate, he has the second-highest upside of anyone in this group, and though the White Sox have taken steps towards regaining relevancy this offseason they're not going to compete in 2014.
There's a bit of a glut here when it comes to first base, as Jose Abreu and Paul Konerko are two right-handed hitters already on the roster, and the White Sox have a righty-heavy bench, too. That might mean Lavarnway isn't a perfect fit, but if the White Sox think there's any chance at all he can turn into a backup MLB catcher it would make sense to give him 200 innings behind the plate this year and see if a different coaching staff can improve his receiving skills.
Abreu is entrenched at first, but it's a mess behind the plate in Chicago. Photo credit: Rob Tringali
New York Mets
Whereas the White Sox would look at Lavarnway primarily as a backup catching option, the Mets could use him as a right-handed hitter off the bench and backup first baseman. Ike Davis and Lucas Duda are seemingly locked in a battle for the first base job, but both are left-handed hitters and the best righty-bat on the Mets bench is Josh Satin. Seriously. If Lavarnway costs next to nothing, why not see if he can serve as a C/1B/PH type with some right-handed pop?
Talented but oft-injured prospect Travis d'Arnaud is poised to begin the year as the Mets' starter behind the plate, with Anthony Recker serving as backup and Taylor Teagarden sitting in Triple-A. Given d'Arnaud's injury history and the relative lack of upside of the other options, Lavarnway makes even more sense if the Mets think he can even muster a 40-grade for catcher defense.
The Twins are in a state of flux when it comes to their catcher depth chart and really when it comes to their entire roster. With Joe Mauer moving to first base on a fulltime basis, Kurt Suzuki has been left to start behind the plate for the Twins, with Chris Herrmann serving as backup. That will likely change by midseason thanks to prospect Josmil Pinto, but there's an opening on the Twins roster for a Lavarnway-type right now nonetheless.
Despite their super exciting revamped pitching staff, the Twins are another team that isn't going anywhere this season and can afford to give Lavarnway some time at and behind the plate at the MLB level. Chris Colabello is their primary right-handed option of the bench, and I just threw up a little bit in my mouth as I typed that. Considering that the price for Lavarnway is likely picking up the phone and saying "yes we will take Lavarnway," the Twins should see if he can be even a small part of their youth movement.
As the Astros stand right now, there's little point in adding Lavarnway. Jason Castro is a good everyday catcher, Carlos Corporan is a dime-a-dozen but not totally embarrassing backup and Max Stassi is a solid third option waiting in the wings in Triple-A. Yet rumors abound that the Astros will look to move Castro to capitalize on his peak value, and that could put Houston in a position where they're looking to acquire additional catching depth.
While prospect Jonathan Singleton should be ready to take over at first base by midseason, the Astros are pretty thin there now, too. Chris Carter is slated to start with Jesus Guzman as the primary backup, and J.D. Martinez serves as the other right-handed option on the bench. Lavarnway might find himself in more of a battle for playing time here than in the other destinations mentioned, but there are very few players the Astros shouldn't be willing to try out during their hunt for a fourth-consecutive top overall draft pick.
It's tempting to write off Lavarnway as a player with no MLB future, and odds are that's the correct instinct to have. On the other hand, guys like Adrian Nieto, Josh Satin, Carlos Corporan, Chris Colabello and Anthony Recker are all poised to start the season on MLB rosters. Lavarnway is not the type of former top prospect who'll bounce around the periphery of the major leagues for a decade, but he will get another chance or two outside of Boston when he is inevitably pushed off of the 40-man roster at some point this season.
If ever a team needed a clunky catcher/first base-type with limited defensive utility and an unproven bat, it's the Mariners.