The Fallout From A Catching Coup D’Etat in Boston

First he lost Beckett’s business. Then it was Matsuzaka. And yesterday, he learned that Buchholz is taking at least some of his business elsewhere. With clients defecting so quickly, I think it is fair to ask the following …. Will Jerrod Saltalamacchia still have a catching “practice” in Boston come Memorial Day?

The news these days is not good for Saltalamacchia who in case you haven’t been paying attention, has basically been ousted in a catching Coup d’Etat.  It turns out management was far less committed to Salty than they let on this Winter and without their support, Jarrod now finds himself as the club’s minority catcher.

Just to recap the situation ….. it’s now pretty clear that Varitek will catch those games where Beckett and Matsuzaka are on the mound. Or at least most of them. Further, it looks like Tek will get Clay’s starts or at least those where Buchholz is matched against a lefty. Time will tell whether Varitek eventually gets all of Buck’s work but that seems likely in the near-term as Buchholz is struggling and there seems to be a feeling that Varitek is better equipped to get him by this rough patch.

With three starters spoken for, Salty is basically left with just two clients: Jon Lester and John Lackey. (And we’ll see on Sunday whether he gets Buch back as Clay is scheduled to face RH King Felix) That is a pretty thin list when one considers that two months ago, it was widely assumed that Salty would get roughly seventy percent of the catching work.

But clearly, Salty’s shine has dulled since the season began. That is because he hasn’t hit a lick, he has missed some blocks, chunked some throws and most importantly, he just hasn’t been around when the starters have excelled. Whether there is a cause and effect in play is anybody’s guess but the circumstantial evidence points to Salty as a being a problem.

That said, here is why I think Salty will live through the summer. Who will they bring in to replace him? A guy from the minors like Sea Dog Tim Federowicz (Fedex) who doesn’t know the league? You think Lackey and Lester will be thrilled by that possibility?

Another possibility is trading for a backup from the NL but that idea is also dogged by the fact that the player probably won’t know the league and is unlikely to add much offense. Finally, they could make a play for Mike Napoli, recognizing that he might not be a great catcher but he knows the AL and he brings a big right-handed stick. Obviously, that is something that the Sox could really use.

These are not great (or even available) options and that is why I think Salty’s reduced role is safe …. for now.  Clearly, Varitek’s plate is totally full given his age and his horrifying bat. I mean how many times can you start a guy who could be the worst offensive player in the American League? So I don’t see Varitek picking up anymore of Salty’s business anytime soon.

The question really then becomes … is there a better option out there that could take over just Salty’s reduced role? I say “just” because the more I think about it, the more I doubt the Sox will bring in a big-name outsider to dislodge Varitek from Beckett AND Matsuzaka. If those two continue to throw well with Varitek receiving, it seems highly unlikely that Francona would switch that up because he’ll suffer Tek’s bat if it comes with good outings. And as far as Buchholz goes, the Sox will probably stick with Varitek if he is back there when Clay flips the switch.

So the Sox are really in a bit of a bind here. They got some fickle pitchers who don’t play well with other children. That complicates matters on the trade front. But they also have one catcher who can’t hit and another who can’t do much of anything. Add it all up and they are really stuck with what they got. If that makes you sick, then you better hope Fedex continues to hit at Portland because that may be your best chance for relief.


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