Boston Red Sox rookie catcher Christian Vazquez has taken the league by storm in nearly a quarter of a season playing in the big leagues. In 39 games for Boston, the Puerto Rican catcher is hitting .234/.292/.289, but his defense gives him pride. Behind the dish, he has gunned down 10 of 21 attempted base stealers good for 48% caught stealing. Compare this to the league average which is a mere 27%. His WAR on defense stands at 1.0 and will only get better as he plays in more games. Defense alone is enough to warrant Vazquez a starting job, but the fact that his bat will come around is a plus.
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Since Vazquez is set to be the starting catcher, Boston is in position to bring in a new backup. With David Ross set to be a free agent, there is an outside chance the club brings in someone else to catch instead of their backup who is set to turn 38-years-old by Opening Day 2015.
Of the catchers set to be free agents this offseason, none of them are the least bit appealing. Sure, they would make decent backup catchers, but they are all a few years removed from their primes and are hardly good enough to be considered replacement players anymore (WAR > 0.0). Gerald Laird, Geovany Soto, John Buck, Wil Nieves and A.J. Pierzynski are hardly appealing options for Boston, especially when these men refuse to play for under $1 million a year as Doug Mirabelli did in the last year of his career. Instead, these men want several million a year to hurt the team’s chances for success.
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Although he is hardly a replacement player anymore, re-signing David Ross seems like a more appealing option each day. His .184/.256/.362 slash line does not appeal to most, but his veteran presence in the clubhouse does. Defensively, he is nowhere near his old self gunning down just 21% of would-be base stealers compared to 48% in 2009. It does not hurt that he has such a positive reputation in Boston and a weak free agency market boosts his case even further.
Lastly, Dan Butler makes an interesting case to be a backup catcher for the Boston Red Sox next season. Set to earn the league minimum, Butler is a cheaper option who may be able to give the same type of output at the plate and behind the plate as some of these veterans on their ways out. Boasting good plate discipline and everything a pitcher wants from a catcher, he could find his way on the Opening Day roster next season.
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With Blake Swihart catching in AAA Pawtucket, Boston would be in position to try Swihart out at the big league level if either catcher struggled — Vazquez or the catcher to be named later. Now though, Boston must look at their options carefully and decide who their best options are at catcher.