As we move closer to the Winter Meetings this off-season (December 3-6 in Nashville, TN), the free agent market continues to form as teams are making moves to improve their rosters for 2013. The Red Sox have started doing just that, as they inked David Ross to a 2-year/$6.2 million to be their backup catcher. This signing creates a roster crunch at the catcher position, as Boston already had two backstops in Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Ryan Lavarnway.
MLB Trade Rumors reported a rival GM said the Sox have been shopping Saltalamacchia for weeks now, but with no luck thus far, it wouldn’t be a shock if they started entertaining offers for Lavarnway. So, after I touched upon the possibility of making a deal for Salty over the weekend, let’s take a look at what Lavarnway could be worth to the Mets.
The 25-year-old right-handed hitting catcher has had limited time in the Major Leagues throughout the last two seasons, but the Sox showed their confidence in him moving forward since they traded away Kelly Shoppach to the Mets last August in order to give him more opportunity to split playing time with Saltalamacchia. In 46 games played and 153 at-bats, Ryan hit .157/.211/.248 with 2 homers and 12 RBI. In 2011, he accumulated only 39 at-bats, so we’ll have to take a peak at his minor league stats to see what he’s truly capable of.
After being drafted in the 6th round of the 2008 first year amateur draft out of Yale University, the product of Burbank, California immediately showed his potential during his first full season of professional baseball with the Class-A Greenville Drive, hitting .285/.367/.540 with 21 homers and 87 RBI. He’s spent a total of five seasons in the Red Sox minor league system, he’s hit higher than .285 on four occasions, hit 20+ homers three times, has driven in 85+ runs three times, and has hit 20+ doubles four different times. With a career line of .286/.376/.506, he’s ready to be challenged at the Major League level since he’s hit wherever he’s been assigned.
He did struggle a bit in the power department in 2012 for Pawtucket (8 HR, 43 RBI in 319 ABs), but still hit 22 doubles. I take the same approach when evaluating Daniel Murphy‘s lack of home run power last season; it’s not a complete power outage if a player continues getting hits for extra bases, but there certainly would be one if a player becomes a singles hitter. So, despite the drop in numbers for Lavarnway in Triple-A last season, his stock is still high and he is still has 20-homer potential.
Looking at what he has to offer, he can give the Mets almost everything they’re looking for in a catcher; he’s a right-handed hitter that can hit southpaws (.370/.500/.521 in AAA last season), is young and inexpensive (made $482K in ’12, arbitration-eligible 2015), and has a decent defensive reputation (32% caught-stealing in the minors). The only thing is that he doesn’t have any real experience at the Major League level. However, that’s not a problem because although Josh Thole is young, he is experienced, and Mike Nickeas can help coach him up during Spring Training.
Lavarnway has the potential to be a starting catcher in the Major Leagues for years to come, and Alderson could strike gold by acquiring him before he’s proven himself at the highest level. The Sox obviously think highly of him since they shipped Shoppach out of town last season to make room, so they’ll do all they can to unload Salty first. If they continue to have no luck, Ben Cherington could break down and shop the 25-year-old because he can draw more interest while also bringing back more in return. Boston sure could use a pitcher to secure the back-end of the rotation, like Dillon Gee, who could be used as a centerpiece in this kind of deal. I still would be hesitant to include Jonathon Niese in this unless an outfielder is added to the mix. Gee has proven himself enough to be a dependable fourth of fifth part of a rotation, and that looks to be what Boston could use going into 2013, outside of a first baseman.
Who do you think is a better fit for the Mets, Jarrod Saltalamacchia or Ryan Lavarnway?