The Boston Red Sox have inked backup catcher — and one of the more underrated players in baseball — David Rossto a two-year, $6.2 million deal.
Ross, who turns 36 in March, is coming off of another solid season, batting .256/.321/.449 to go along with solid defense in limited action. And despite getting less than 200 plate appearances every year since 2009 he’s hit a combined .269/.353/.463 and his total offensive production, according to Weighted Runs Created Plus, has been 22% better than the league average.
His BABIPs have been remarkably high for an aging catcher –.347 over the past four seasons — which may lead to one of those opposite fluky sub-.260 seasons, but his secondary skills — power and walk rates — are solid enough so that even in a down year he could still remain at least semi-productive.
And by adding another solid backstop — to go along with incumbent starter Jarrod Saltalamacchia and rookie Ryan Lavarnway — the Red Sox have created an enviable situation, providing the option to deal one of the two latter players or push Saltalamacchia to first base.
Like Ross, Saltalamacchia is relatively underrated, perhaps masked by the failure to live up to his hyped prospect status, low batting averages or high strikeout rates. He’s definitely valuable, especially as a catcher. But his bat could play at first base too, a position of need for the Sox.
On the surface, Saltalamacchia’s been the same performer over the last two seasons, posting wRC+ totals of 94 and 95 respectively. But this season his walk rate jumped rather noticeably — from 6.2% in 2011 to 8.5%, a number similar to his career total — and his BABIP dropped to .265, more the 40 points below his norm. So, despite what appears to be a lateral step from one season to the next, Boston could reasonably expect him to be an above-average performer next year as his BABIP bounces back. And given his power potential — he could very easily top 30 homeruns next season — he could potentially be a three- to four-win first baseman next season. The only issue may be his performance against lefties (.203/.256/.335).
Update: HardBallTalk’s Craig Calcaterra makes an interesting observation: Jerry Sands mashers left-handers. Meaning, of course, that Boston could potentially keep all three catchers and make one helluva platoon at first with Sands and Saltalamacchia.
This, of course, would push Lavarnway into everyday action — finally.
In parts of two seasons in Triple-A, he’s hit a combined .295/.382/.511 with solid power and a plus-eye. And he should develop into at least a two-win player, maybe more.
And if the Sox aren’t comfortable enough to go with either Saltalamacchia at first or Lavarnway behind the plate, they could always deal one of them for so help in other areas.
Even way, though, signing Ross should prove to quite the prudent move for Boston.
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