COMMENTARY | Over the years, the Boston Red Sox have been used to stability behind the plate. Jason Varitek served the team for 14 mostly productive seasons -- including catching four no-hitters, the most in MLB history -- before his retirement in 2011. Ever since then, the team has been searching for the same kind of leadership from its starting catcher.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia has been frustratingly inconsistent if not an outright disappointment. His 5 passed balls are 4th-worst in MLB and his inability to throw out anyone is highlighted by his minuscule .147-percent caught-stealing percentage. David Ross has been adequate in his backup role, but at his age he's not in the long-term plans. Ryan Lavarnway, 26 in August, hasn't looked much better in his limited appearances over the last two years.
With Saltalamacchia's expiring contract, he may not be around much longer anyway.
It might be time to explore outside options.
Let's suppose for a moment that the Atlanta Braves have decided to part ways with their long-time catcher, Brian McCann -- something many around baseball believe is inevitable after the season is over. They certainly have the depth to withstand such a blow after the emergence of rookie Evan Gattis.
While Gattis has made it almost impossible to leave him out of a regular spot in the lineup, he can't seem to find a home in the field anywhere other than catcher. He's made errors and looks to be a step slow in the outfield, but his sudden prowess both at the plate and behind it can't be overstated. Atlanta also has Gerald Laird on the roster and blue-chip prospect Christian Bethancourt making his way through its minor-league system.
Thus, McCann has become available. Hypothetically.
Acquiring McCann would serve two purposes. First, he further solidifies an already extremely potent Red Sox lineup that leads the majors in most offensive categories. While adding a 5-time Silver Slugger seems like a luxury, the bottom portion of the Red Sox's lineup has been woefully inconsistent -- the team has the 2nd most strikeouts in the AL.
More important, he brings with him a strong defensive presence. The 6-time All-Star hasn't finished lower than 5th (and typically top 3) in MLB in catcher's ERA since 2008. He's tougher to run on than Saltalamacchia and rarely makes mistakes with only 7 errors in the last 3 years.
Boston would also likely re-sign McCann in the winter. Making the trade for him before the July 31 non-waiver deadline allows early negotiations and the avoidance of a bidding war, one the Red Sox were likely to dive into regardless.
However, the cost to bring McCann to Fenway would not be a cheap one. Atlanta isn't going to just give away such a valuable player and fan-favorite. According to Braves general manager Frank Wren, his team is looking for bullpen help, an area where the Red Sox have struggled themselves. Junichi Tazawa fits the bill, but would certainly only be a small starting point in any trade discussion. Allen Webster could also be included.
Realistically, the Braves will probably hang on to McCann. They're one of the stronger teams in the NL, fully capable of making a run at the World Series with a few minor tweaks. But if they do decide to move McCann, Boston's offer should be the first one on the table.
Andrew Luistro has followed the Red Sox for over 20 years. He also writes for the Sunbelt Hockey Journal.
Follow him on Twitter @ndrewL7.
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