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Monday, May 9, 2011
How Red Sox could upgrade at catcher

By Jim Bowden

Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Jason Varitek
Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Jason Varitek are hitting a combined .172 with no home runs.
The Boston Red Sox are hoping that Jarrod Saltalamacchia comes around and becomes their No. 1 catcher. However, the 26-year-old is off to a slow start, hitting just .203 with an OPS of .522 and 19 strikeouts in only 69 at-bats. Although he is improving behind the plate in calling a game and throwing out runners, it's still unclear whether he is the long-term answer.

As the Red Sox allow him to play through his slow start, they are blessed to have a veteran and a winner in Jason Varitek to help him out. However, the Red Sox can’t wait until the trade deadline to search for a short-term or even a long-term answer behind the plate if Salty doesn’t hit or improve enough to win with one of the better rotations in baseball. Therefore, the effort has to be going on now behind the scenes.

Since general managers have only 29 trade partners, it’s important to stay in constant communication with each of them, constantly exploring options while communicating needs and depth. The best chance for the Red Sox making a deal for a catcher is to target teams that have multiple talented catchers. Therefore, teams such as the Reds, Yankees, Angels, Nationals, Blue Jays and Athletics are the most logical places for the Red Sox to start. Remember, trades can be done in one phone call, but most trades take weeks, months or even years to consummate. It never hurts to make trade proposals on a regular basis, even if you never end up making a deal with that club.

To make a deal for a catcher, the first thing you need to do is to look at your rankings of catchers in the minor and major leagues. Each team will have a board listing their top 50 trade targets. GMs will have these players ranked in terms of how their top executives, scouts, player development personnel and other evaluators view them.

All 30 clubs want to have a Joe Mauer or Buster Posey, but those aren’t players you’ll ever be able to trade for. Draft them if you want them; otherwise, lower your sights. Every club is always trying to improve their team at each position. In the case of the Red Sox, they have to figure out where Saltalamacchia fits on their rankings of catchers. For this example, let’s say they view him at No. 32. To improve the team, it would then make sense to talk to the teams that have catchers who are ranked higher, ideally trying to acquire a catcher in the top 20.

Here would be an example of what the CATCHERS TRADE TARGETS list would look like. Note that it is a mix of major and minor leaguers. (This is not an exact order, just an example.)

CATEGORY NO. 1: DON'T WASTE YOUR TIME, THEY'RE NOT TRADING
1. Joe Mauer -- Minnesota Twins
2. Buster Posey -- San Francisco Giants
3. Brian McCann -- Atlanta Braves
4. Yadier Molina -- St. Louis Cardinals
5. Carlos Santana -- Cleveland Indians
6. Matt Wieters -- Baltimore Orioles
7. Kurt Suzuki -- Oakland Athletics
8. Jesus Montero -- New York Yankees
9. Carlos Ruiz -- Philadelphia Phillies
10. Miguel Montero -- Arizona Diamondbacks
11. Hank Conger -- Los Angeles Angels

CATEGORY NO. 2: PLAN ON PAYING A HEFTY PRICE
12. Travis d'Arnaud -- Toronto Blue Jays
13. Derek Norris -- Washington Nationals
14. Gary Sanchez -- New York Yankees
15. Devin Mesoraco -- Cincinnati Reds
16. Wilson Ramos -- Washington Nationals
17. Alex Avila -- Detroit Tigers
18. J.P. Arencibia -- Toronto Blue Jays
19. Wilin Rosario -- Colorado Rockies
20. Yasmani Grandal -- Cincinnati Reds
21. Max Stassi -- Oakland Athletics
22. Tony Sanchez -- Pittsburgh Pirates
23. Jason Castro -- Houston Astros

CATEGORY NO. 3: POSSIBLE UPGRADES
24. Russell Martin -- New York Yankees
25. Geovany Soto -- Chicago Cubs
26. Austin Romine -- New York Yankees
27. John Buck -- Florida Marlins
28. Jeff Mathis -- Los Angeles Angels
29. Ramon Hernandez -- Cincinnati Reds
30. A.J. Pierzynski -- Chicago White Sox
31. Nick Hundley -- San Diego Padres
32. Yorvit Torrealba -- Texas Rangers
33. Chris Snyder -- Pittsburgh Pirates
34. Sebastian Valle -- Philadelphia Phillies
35. Justin O’Connor -- Tampa Bay Rays
36. Miguel Olivo -- Seattle Mariners
37. Mike Napoli -- Texas Rangers
38. Jonathan Lucroy -- Milwaukee Brewers
39. John Jaso -- Tampa Bay Rays
40. Kyle Skipworth -- Florida Marlins
41. Lou Marson -- Cleveland Indians
42. Jesus Flores -- Washington Nationals
43. Josh Thole -- New York Mets
44. Matt Treanor -- Kansas City Royals
45. Carlos Perez -- Toronto Blue Jays
46. Rod Barajas -- Los Angeles Dodgers
47. Pudge Rodriguez -- Washington Nationals
48. Chris Iannetta -- Colorado Rockies
49. Bobby Wilson -- Los Angeles Angels
50. Ryan Doumit -- Pittsburgh Pirates

Now, let’s get specific with realistic possibilities the Red Sox could be discussing:

Long-term solutions
Reds -- Devin Mesoraco or Yasmani Grandal
Blue Jays -- J.P. Arencibia or Travis d'Arnaud
Angels -- Hank Conger or Jeff Mathis
Nationals -- Wilson Ramos or Derek Norris
Athletics -- Max Stassi
Yankees -- Never mind, not happening

Possible stop-gap catchers for this year
These guys could be available if their teams fall out of the playoff race.

White Sox -- A.J. Pierzynski
Mariners -- Miguel Olivo
Padres -- Nick Hundley
Nationals -- Pudge Rodriguez
Free agent -- Bengie Molina

I hope that the combination of Saltalamacchia and Varitek will work out for the Red Sox. If not, it will be fun to watch Theo Epstein and the Red Sox try to wheel and deal in July.

Thanks for reading! I appreciate your feedback and ideas. Feel free to contact me directly at my Twitter account: JimBowdenESPNxm.