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Tag:Jarrod Saltalamacchia
Posted on: April 6, 2011 8:50 pm
 

Saltalamacchia has leash until June

By Evan Brunell

SaltalamacchiaJarrod Saltalamacchia has until June to prove himself, writes SI.com's Jon Heyman.

Salty got the season off to a rather poor start when he looked absolutely lost at the plate in the opening series against his former team in the Rangers. He went 0 for 10 with five strikeouts, although he would redeem himself slightly Tuesday by delivering an RBI single in the top of the second inning for his team's only run of the game. He also added a walk later in the game before being swapped out for a pinch-hitter. Longtime team captain Jason Varitek drew the start on Wednesday, as was expected.

The Red Sox have been adamant -- as adamant as one can be despite exploring other options -- all offseason about Salty getting an extended shot to start. Boston's certainly not going to reverse course based on four games of work. Skipper Terry Francona observed after the Rangers series that he felt Saltalamacchia was pressing too much and getting away from what made his spring training so successful.

One observation is just who the heck the club could replace Salty with in June if he's not working out. Jason Varitek is not a full-time catcher, so they would have to either shoehorn 'Tek into more playing time or call up Michael McKenry from Triple-A. McKenry was acquired from the Rockies at the end of spring training and could have a solid career ahead of him, but would Boston really leapfrog from one risk as a young catcher to another?

More likely, Boston would start scouring the trade market at that point to bring in someone external. While Ivan Rodriguez is certainly available, he wouldn't interest the Red Sox. It's not clear what catchers are on the trade block, but looking at catchers who will be free agents after the year always is a place to start.

Too bad the names are unexciting. Rod Barajas is the only one that may justify a starting spot for, and he's the primary catcher in Los Angeles. Ryan Doumit cannot field the position, and far too many of the rest are essentially backup types. If Chris Snyder can hop off the disabled list and produce in Pittsburgh, he may develop as an option. Another option is ex-Sox farmhand Kelly Shoppach, who has had a streaky career but when right, can swing a stick with the best of them. There's also Ramon Hernandez, who was the hero in Cincinnati on opening day but could be jettisoned to hand Ryan Hanigan, scorching hot, the full-time gig.

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Posted on: April 2, 2011 11:32 am
Edited on: April 18, 2011 12:31 pm
 

Pepper: Facebookin' baseball fans

Giants

By Evan Brunell

FACEBOOKIN': Oh, the things you can find out.

A group of Facebook data scientists got together and analyzed all 30 teams' fan pages on Facebook as well as status updates of its fans.

"While the U.S. may be a country of 50 states, to fans of Major League Baseball, it's a country of thirty teams, each with its own sphere of influence," the report stated.

So what was found?

For one, the World Series last season that opposed the Giants and Rangers pitted America's most liberal baseball fans against its most conservative. Not that much of a surprise given each team's respective locations. But the Giants were also part of a list of fans that were young and single. The two teams that paced baseball in having the youngest and most available fans were the Athletics and Blue Jays. On the opposite end of the spectrum, a Cardinals, Reds or Tigers fan is more likely to be older and married.

How about popularity? There are plenty of teams that "vie for popularity in Southern California, [but] teams like the Braves are dominant over most of the South," the report said.

The most popular team, though, was the Yankees as a fan "liked" the team every 1.5 teams. Bringing up the rear were the Nationals with over five teams liked per fan. (San Francisco Chronicle)

READYING FOR SUNDAY: Barry Zito is expected to make his start Sunday after coming through a throwing program Friday with no repercussions. Zito is still recovering from a car crash Wednesday night that has left him with a stiff neck. (San Jose Mercury-News)

FRENEMIES: A nice feature story on both Ed Wade and Ruben Amaro. Amaro, of course is the GM of the Phillies that has made bold moves lately to create a vaunted rotation while Wade hired Amaro to the front office and preceded Amaro as GM of the Phillies back in the dog days of Philly baseball before Pat Gillick came in and turned things around. (Philly.com)

BACK HOME: It was a strange return to Texas of sorts for Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who made his second straight opening start in the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Of course, last year he was a Ranger and ended up delivering the first game-winning hit of Texas' 2010 season. "I've got nothing but good things to say about Salty," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "The guy works his butt off. The tools are there, but it's like anything else. Talking and writing about it is one thing. Getting it done between the lines is another." (Ft. Worth Star-Telegram)

STOP CHEWING: Commissioner Bud Selig fully intends to attempt a ban on smokeless tobacco in the next round of labor negotiations. He may have a difficult time getting the ban in place. Where's the line between what baseball can demand and a player's on personal choice? (MLB.com)

MMM, FOOD: Here's an interesting list of the best new food at ballparks for 2011. Topping the list is the "Meat Lover's Hot Dog" that is being rolled out in Cincinnati. It's a quarter-pound hot dog wrapped in bacon, deep-fried and then topped with pepper, jack cheese and fried salami. Sounds delish, but also sounds right in line with America's obsession with pigging out and then complaining about being obese. (Mantestedrecipes.com)

LINEUP CONTROVERSY: Brennan Boesch is in the lineup for Saturday's tilt against the Yankees, while presumed starting left fielder Ryan Raburn has hit the bench. That creates lots of questions about just what is the status quo in Detroit. (Detroit News)

NOT ROLLING IN MONEY: Forbes created a bit of a stir by revealing the Padres had the highest operating income last season at $37.2 million. Does that mean San Diego is pocketing money rather than reinvesting it back into the team? Not quite, as Forbes could have overstated the amount of profit by the team as much as $10 million. (San Diego Union-Tribune)

OVERCLAWING: The SEC believes Irving Picard is taking things a bit too far in his fee requirements in his capacity as trustee overseeing Bernie Madoff's financial empire. Picard is supposed to return the money to its rightful owners and yet could threaten the $2.5 billion fund of the government-sponsored nonprofit organization that manages the liquidation of failed brokerage firms in personal fees. (New York Daily News)

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Posted on: March 12, 2011 6:14 pm
Edited on: March 12, 2011 6:25 pm
 

Red Sox may trade Matsuzaka, Cameron, more

By Evan Brunell

MatsuzakaThe Red Sox are busy making several players available for trade, reports Gordon Edes of ESPN Boston. Players thought to be available include right-handers Daisuke Matsuzaka (pictured) and Tim Wakefield along with outfielders Mike Cameron or Darnell McDonald and shortstop Marco Scutaro.

Out of these names, Matsuzaka is both the most well-known and also unlikeliest to be traded. After taking America by storm his first two seasons in town -- nabbing a ring in his rookie campaign back in 2007 -- Matsuzaka has struggled with injuries, integrating himself into the clubhouse and being completely ineffective as his 11.42 ERA in three spring training starts reveals.

"His rhythm was all out of whack,'' the source who indicated Dice-K was on the block said. "I don't know if it's because that's what the team wants, but I think he's become too much of a conventional pitcher. He's got to go back to pitching 'left-handed' again, dropping down at times, throwing from all kinds of angles, turning the ball over. He's not doing that as much.''

Matsuzaka has a full no-trade clause and is due $20 million over the next two seasons, making it difficult for a team to jump for Matsuzaka, no matter the talent that caused Boston to splurge for a $51.1 million posting fee just to talk to the Japanese phenom. However, there are enough teams in need of pitching and Matsuzaka's ace-caliber talents remain hidden somewhere in his body. It appears, though, that both Matsuzaka and the Red Sox are ready to move on, and Boston would do just that if they could add a young catcher to the team.

The Red Sox are set to go into the season with Jarrod Saltalamacchia starting with team captain Jason Varitek backing up. While the club has a few young catchers in the minors, they lack someone with a high ceiling. Despite Salty's pedigree, he has yet to put it all together in the majors and Boston would doubtless prefer to create more depth in the position.

One potential thought could be the Nationals, who have Wilson Ramos and Jesus Flores as young catchers. While Ramos is expected to open the year as backup catcher to Ivan Rodriguez and eventually supplant the Hall of Fame catcher, Flores is out of options. Flores is likely of little concern to Boston, who would prefer a player they can send to the minors and groom. Washington has such a catcher in Derek Norris, who was ranked as the No. 47 prospect in all of baseball by CBS Sports.

However, while the Nationals would love to stockpile quality pitching and could be intrigued by Matsuzaka, all the issues surrounding the 30-year-old and Norris' ceiling would make any such deal difficult to bridge unless Boston is willing to eat some salary.

Red Sox

If the Red Sox do move Matsuzaka, it would open up a hole in the rotation that could be filled by Tim Wakefield, reliever Alfredo Aceves or prospects Felix Doubront and Andrew Miller.

However, Wakefield is thought to be on the block himself despite stating he has no interest in playing for another team. Due just $1.5 million in 2011, the Red Sox could dangle the swingman for left-handed relief. The club has no shortage of left-handed relievers in camp vying for a job, but none are clear front-runners. If both Wakefield and Matsuzaka remain, the knuckleballer will pitch out of the bullpen.

Also available are backup outfielders Mike Cameron and Darnell McDonald. Cameron is due $7.25 million in the final year of a two-year deal. Slated to start in center for the Red Sox last season, injuries derailed his season and now have him set to be the No. 4 outfielder. McDonald, meanwhile, took advantage of all the playing time afforded him in the outfield last season to finally establish himself in the majors after being a minor-league journeyman. He's making the league minimum so is the more valuable outfielder from a cost perspective, although Cameron holds the edge on offense and defense, which he is renowned for.

The Red Sox do need right-handed outfielders to complement their all-lefty outfielder along with DH David Ortiz, also a lefty. Given right fielder J.D. Drew has a checkered injury past, there's plenty of playing time in store for Cameron and McDonald. One of them is being made available likely to fill more pressing holes, such as left-handed relief. In addition, both outfielders rake against left-handers and are effectively filling the same role.

Cameron and McDonald could draw interest from the Phillies, who have to deal with top prospect Domonic Brown (No. 3 on the Top 100 prospects list) fracturing his hamate bone and likely out for all of April. He appears ticketed for Triple-A after that given his poor start to spring training and newfound need to get at-bats. That opens up a gaping hole in right field for Philly, trying to withstand the loss of incumbent Jayson Werth while worrying about replacing the offense of second baseman Chase Utley, who is unlikely to begin the season with the team. Backup outfielder Ben Francisco is expected to win the starting role.

The Phillies already have a payroll in the mid-$160 million range and would like to avoid paying a payroll tax that would be incurred upon hitting $178 million, so while Cameron makes more sense to become the starter, McDonald appears the more cost-effective solution who could platoon with Francisco as well as fill in for Raul Ibanez in left field. The Red Sox would replace their backup outfield spot with one of Ryan Kalish, Josh Reddick or Daniel Nava.

Boston will also listen to offers on starting shortstop Marco Scutaro, who is in the final year of a two-year pact paying $5 million. He would be attractive to other teams given the price and ability to play second, short and third base, with a team option of $5 million for 2012 or a player option of $3 million. The Sox are able to listen to offers on Scutaro thanks to the play of backup Jed Lowrie, who has struggled with injuries the last few years but turned heads with his play late last season. The club also has heralded prospect Jose Iglesias (No. 36) who is widely considered Boston's shortstop of the future. While he could stand to cut his teeth a bit more in the minors with the bat, it wouldn't be outrageous for Boston to promote him.

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Posted on: March 4, 2011 7:21 pm
Edited on: March 4, 2011 9:00 pm
 

3 up, 3 down: Jon Daniels' best, worst moves

DanielsBy Evan Brunell

The Rangers have handed GM Jon Daniels a four-year extension, rewarding the 33-year-old for steering the club to its first-ever AL pennant in 2010. For all of Daniels' talents, however, he's made quite a few missteps along the way. Here's a look back at Daniels' three best and worst moves as Rangers GM...

3 UP

1. The Teix Heist

The reason the Rangers made the World Series is thanks to the trade that sent Mark Teixeira to the Atlanta Braves. Consummated at the trade deadline of 2007, this deal represented the first time Daniels was trading away a major piece of a team and he needed to hit a home run.

He did. By dealing Teix and left-handed reliever Ron Mahay, Daniels hauled in catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, shortstop Elvis Andrus, pitchers Neftali Feliz, Matt Harrison and Beau Jones. The fact Salty stalled in Texas is concerning, but many viewed the backstop at the time as one of the elite young catchers in the game. Andrus would go on to blossom as Texas' starting shortstop while Feliz won the AL Rookie of the Year Award with 40 saves last season and is currently shifting to the rotation. Harrison is a young lefty who is battling for a rotation spot himself, while Jones is the one non-entity.

This deal will continue to pay dividends over time, as Andrus and Feliz will be in town for years to come while Harrison is valuable depth. Saltalamacchia's career is not yet over as he is slated to start in Boston, and the jury is out on Daniels' return for Salty in three minor leaguers.

2. Game Over

Daniels made another significant trade the day of the 2007 trade deadline when he dealt "Game Over" Eric Gagne and cash to the Red Sox for Kason Gabbard, David Murphy and Engel Beltre.

Gagne was impressive in his first season as an ex-Dodger and after missing the bulk of the 2006 season. He wasn't the lockdown closer of old, but looked as if he could be a quality part of the bullpen. Except as Red Sox fans know, he completely imploded and while he walked away with a World Series trade, he will forever be known as Gag-me in Boston. (For some reason, there are over 11,000 views of a video I took recording Gagne's Red Sox debut.) His saving grace in Boston was as a Type-B free agent, and the Red Sox would later trade the player they drafted with the compensatory pick to Cleveland as part of the Victor Martinez deal.

Meanwhile, David Murphy is one of the more valuable fourth outfielders in the game and would be a starter for many other teams. Beltre has his makeup questions but is developing nicely as Texas' center fielder of the future. Gabbard flamed out, but at the time was a possible back-of-the-rotation starter.

3. Draft Bonanza

A major reason why Daniels has stayed viable as GM of the Rangers is his drafting history. Of course, major credit goes to the people working under him that are in charge of the draft, but Daniels deserves credit for putting these people in those roles as well as having a hand in the drafting and development of these players.

His first draft pick, Kasey Kiker, has yet to develop significantly but is just 22 and does hold some promise. However, his following two have had major league time already: power-hitting Chris Davis who has unfortunately failed time and time again to lock down a starting spot in Texas and Danny Herrera, who is a member of the Reds bullpen currently and was used to get Josh Hamilton. Michael Main was used to get Bengie Molina, while Blake Beavan and Justin Smoak were packaged for Cliff Lee

Tommy Hunter was a viable member of the rotation last season and could have a nice career as a back-of-the-rotation pitcher, while Julio Borbon is prepared to start in center field. Tanner Scheppers ranked No. 77 on CBSSports.com's Top 100 Prospects and  may have ranked higher if he was clearly going to be a starter. The club also came away with an impressive haul in the 2010 draft.

Honorable Mention: One would expect the deal bringing in Josh Hamilton to be one of Daniels' better deals, but it's hard to justify that as one of his best deals simply by virtue of giving up Edinson Volquez. There's no denying Hamilton's talent -- after all, he won the AL MVP award -- but Volquez has turned out pretty well for himself. There's a similar case to be made for the trade that imported Carlos Lee and Nelson Cruz from Milwaukee in exchange for Laynce Nix, Kevin Mench, Francisco Cordero and Juan Cordero, so the honorable mention goes to signing Colby Lewis to a two-year deal prior to the 2010 season. Lewis was an utter failure stateside before heading to Japan and discovering his talent. Daniels didn't hesitate to bring in Lewis, and all he did was become the Rangers' best right-handed starter in the team's run to the AL pennant.

3 DOWN

1. The Young and Heartless

In March of 2007, Daniels signed shortstop Michael Young to a five-year, $80 million extension, a contract that was strange at the time and now has snowballed. Two seasons later, Daniels bumped Young to third base in a contentious move to free up short for Elvis Andrus. Young's bat has continued to be solid, but he remained a defensive liability at third and in a much-publicized spat, is now headed to DH and first base after demanding a trade. However, thanks to Young's contract, it will be difficult to move him.

Daniels certainly shouldn't have signed Young to this deal, but that's not why this ranks as one of his three worst moves as GM. While there's a lot of "he-said, he-said" going on by both sides, the fact remains that Young is not very keen on speaking to Daniels and feels "misled." Whether or not you believe Daniels or Young (or think the true answer is somewhere in-between), Daniels should have done a far better job managing the crisis as this has become a nightmare, both in terms of Young's trade value and in public relations. Heck, it even made a three-year-old kid very upset.

2. A-Gone

It's hard to fault Jon Daniels for trading away Adrian Gonzalez as he needed pitching and had Mark Teixeira at first. But goodness, couldn't he have done better? In his second significant trade of his GM career -- the first was also pretty bad -- Daniels shipped away someone who would become one of the best first-basemen in the game in short order in Gonzalez to the Padres along with Chris Young, who fashioned a nice run for himself in the rotation for San Diego. Terrmel Sledge was a throw-in to get Adam Eaton, Akinori Otsuka and Billy Killian in return.

Eaton was a disaster, making just 13 starts and moving onto the Phillies where he was even worse, while Otsuka became the Rangers' closer but fell to injury in 2007 at age 35 and has not returned to the majors since. Killian is now in independent baseball.

Hey, every GM has trades they regret. It's part of life. But this is one regrettable trade that makes one really cringe looking back on it.

3. A-Rod to Soriano to Nothing

OK, so Daniels wasn't responsible for the initial trade of Alex Rodriguez, but he certainly was responsible for turning Rodriguez's return in Alfonso Soriano into something. Unfortunately, his first major trade was a flop when he shipped Soriano to the Washington Nationals for Brad Wilkerson, Armando Galarraga and Terrmel Sledge. Sledge would be shipped in another terrible deal a month later in the Adrian Gonzalez deal, while Wilkerson couldn't arrest the decline he began in his final season for the Nats in '06. He did not top 350 at-bats in the two seasons he was a Ranger.

While Galarraga was and still is nothing to write home about, he chewed up almost 500 innings for the Tigers after the Rangers essentially gave him away, predominantly as a starter the last three seasons -- and of course, as the architect of the 28-out perfect game. He is now a Diamondback and expected to serve in the back of the rotation. These types of pitchers are far from sexy and you can't blame Daniels for tossing Galarraga in the deal, but it only serves to make this deal look even worse given he got absolutely nothing of value for Soriano, which in turn meant the team got nothing for A-Rod.

In Daniels' defense, he was handicapped by Soriano entering the final year of his deal, but Daniels should have looked for prospects in any deal, not an outfielder on the decline, a pitcher he would give away a couple years later and a bit piece that would go on to become part of Daniels' worst trade to date.

Dishonorable Mention: Not to pile on Daniels, who has turned into a very fine GM, but just like he has plenty of candidates for honorable mention, he has candidates for this category as well. Signing Kevin Millwood to a five-year, $60 million deal was head-scratching at the time and he stumbled badly on December 23, 2006 when he dealt away John Danks, Nick Masset and Jacob Rasner to the White Sox for Brandon McCarthy and David Paisano. Danks and McCarthy were two highly-regarded prospects at the time, but Danks is the one that blossomed, while Masset would go on to bust out himself as an important part of the Reds bullpen.

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Posted on: February 24, 2011 11:34 am
Edited on: February 24, 2011 3:49 pm
 

Honorary All-Grudzielanek team

Mark Grudzielanek played in 1,802 games over the course of 15 major-league seasons. He appeared in uniform for six different teams, making the NLCS twice -- once with the Cubs and once with the Cardinals. He hit .289 with over 2,000 hits and 946 runs scored. He earned one Gold Glove and made the All-Star team once. He was a good guy who always played hard and was generally liked by teammates. Basically, Grudzielanek had a quality major-league career, but won't be showing up on any all-time lists.

That is, unless you are looking squarely at that stupendous last name.

So, in light of his retirement announcement Wednesday, it only seems fitting to put together an All-Star team of the best names in baseball. We're looking for who will carry the torch on with Grudz's departure, so it's current players only. No real criteria, other than that the name just has to sound interesting or be really hard to spell -- or both. This is completely subjective, so there's definite room for argument.

Without further ado, here is the 25-man roster (we also listed all names we considered).

CATCHER: Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Red Sox. And here's the team captain. There's no better name in baseball. Backup: J.P. Arencibia, Blue Jays. Also considered: Francisco Cervelli, Yankees; Taylor Teagarden, Rangers.

FIRST BASE: Pablo Sandoval, Giants. Bonus points for having an awesome nickname. Backup: Kila Ka'aihue, Royals. Also considered: Justin Smoak, Mariners

SECOND BASE: Chone Figgins, Mariners. Real slim pickings here. Nearly every name for a second basemen is bland or common. We'll go with Figgins because "Chone" is pronounced "Sean" or "Shaun" or "Shawn." Also considered: Robinson Cano, Yankees; Dan Uggla, Braves.

THIRD BASE: Kevin Kouzmanoff, A's. Also considered: Placido Polanco, Phillies.

SHORTSTOP:
Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies. Alliteration gets him the nod here. Backup: Yuniesky Betancourt. Also considered: Marco Scutaro, Red Sox; Ryan Theriot, Cardinals.

LEFT FIELD: Scott Podsednik, Blue Jays. Also considered: Chris Coghlan, Marlins; Chris Denorfia, Padres; Ryan Langerhans, Mariners.

CENTER FIELD: Coco Crisp, A's. Another no-brainer. Second easiest pick on here after Saltalamacchia. Backup: Colby Rasmus, Cardinals. Also considered: Nyjer Morgan, Nationals; Rajai Davis, Blue Jays; Cameron Maybin, Padres; Denard Span, Twins; Ryan Spilborghs, Rockies.

RIGHT FIELD: Brennan Boesch, Tigers. Tough call here, but I'm a sucker for the alliteration. Plus, that's just a smooth combo. Props to his parents. Also considered: Jeff Francoeur, Royals; Nate Schierholtz, Giants; Nick Markakis, Orioles.

DESIGNATED HITTER: Milton Bradley, Mariners. Personal feelings aside, this was another obvious one.

STARTING ROTATION: CC Sabathia, Yankees; Max Scherzer, Tigers; Brian Matusz, Orioles; Marc Rzepczynski, Blue Jays; Justin Duchscherer, Orioles. CC gets the nod due to his first name being Carsten. Oh, and for losing the periods to his initials. The other four are pretty obvious with those last names. Grudz is surely proud. Also considered: Bronson Arroyo, Reds; Tim Lincecum, Giants; Madison Bumgarner, Giants; Gio Gonzalez, A's; Tom Gorzelanny, Nationals.

BULLPEN: Octavio Dotel, Blue Jays; Jeff Samardzija, Cubs; Fu-Te Ni, Tigers; Boof Bonser, Mets; Burke Badenhop, Marlins. All pretty obvious great names here, and I especially love "The Hopper," as the Marlins' announcers call Badenhop. Also considered: Brian Duensing, Twins; Joba Chamberlain, Yankees; Jeremy Affeldt, Giants; Jason Isringhausen, Mets.

SETUP: David Aardsma, Mariners. Based mostly on the fact that if you listed every major league player of all-time alphabetically, only Aardsma would come before the great Hank Aaron.

CLOSER: J.J. Putz, Diamondbacks. C'mon. He uses a double initial and his last name looks like an insult (though it's actually pronounced "puts," not "putts," for those in the dark).

MANAGER: Mike Scioscia, Angels. Maybe it's all mental at this point, but spelling that thing correctly still trips me up. Give me Grudzielanek any day. Also considered: Mike Quade, Cubs; Ned Yost, Royals; Manny Acta, Indians.

-- Matt Snyder

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Posted on: February 20, 2011 4:57 pm
 

Varitek hoping to play into mid-40s

VaritekJason Varitek is entering his second season as a backup catcher, but if he has his way, will play into his mid-40s. That would give 'Tek quite a few more seasons as a major leaguer as he readies to turn 38 April 11.

"If my body holds up and I'm able to do the things I feel I can still do then I'll play as long as I can," Varitek told the Boston Globe. "If I start compromising my livelihood for my kids later in life then I've got to start questioning things. If I'm not putting myself in a competitive spot to help a team win, then I have to question things again. Going to back to the question, is that what I envision? Yes, that's what I envision."

Varitek is entering his 15th season and impressed in backup duty last season before a broken foot knocked him out for an extended period. He finished at .232/.293/.473 with seven home runs in 39 games, confirming what many thought of him in his last two years as a starter: he wore down too much. After hot starts, Varitek would fall prey to the grinder of 162 games.

Now, however, Varitek says he is the healthiest he has been in quite a while. Gone is the broken foot. Gone are the back, neck and leg issues that have flared up. But it's not just the injuries that have Varitek feeling good.

"I think for me personally, the work I've done 10-15 years ago, this is when it's starting to show and pay off. It's put my body in position to handle different things. If I hadn't done that work it would be a lot different."

Varitek should play more than the average backup catcher as Boston works Jarrod Saltalamacchia into the starting spot. It wouldn't surprise anyone if Varitek effectively started twice throughout the rotation, but that will be determined by health and production.

An interesting twist is that should Tim Wakefield enter the rotation, Varitek would likely serve as his personal catcher. 'Tek has rarely caught Wakefield the last several seasons as Doug Mirabelli, Kevin Cash and George Kottaras handled these duties instead. Perhaps one of the most-remembered moments from the 2004 playoff chase was Varitek's inept handling of Tim Wakefield in the crucial Game 5 during the 14th inning, coughing up three passed balls. Boston survived, however, and David Ortiz would rip a game-winning RBI single in the 14th to send the series back to Boston.

While Varitek admits he is not good at catching knuckleballs, it makes more sense for 'Tek to serve as Wake's personal catcher should he start. Despite his history, he has far more experience catching knuckleballs, while Saltalamacchia does not. In addition, catching knuckleballs as a catcher is a major commitment and can affect a player at the plate. Given what Boston has invested in Saltly, they would clearly prefer not to expose him to any risk.

-- Evan Brunell

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Posted on: December 8, 2010 1:26 pm
 

Martin down to four teams

Russell Martin Four teams -- the Blue Jays, Red Sox, Yankees and Rockies -- are the finalists for catcher Russell Martin, FanHouse's Ed Price writes .

Martin was non-tendered by the Dodgers last week, but has found a healthy market for his services. Martin was limited to 97 games last season with a hip injury and has seen his numbers nosedive since his two-year run as one of the better catchers in the game in his first three seasons.

From 2006-08, Martin hit .285/.373/.433 with 42 home runs. In the last two years, he's hit .249/.350/.330 with 12 home runs.

The Red Sox re-signed Jason Varitek last week, but may not be comfortable with Jarrod Saltalamacchia as their starter. The Yankees will be moving Jorge Posada to designated hitter, while turning over the catching spot to über-prospect Jesus Montero.

The Rockies and Blue Jays have lost catchers Miguel Olivo and John Buck, respectively, to free agency.

-- C. Trent Rosecrans

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Posted on: November 25, 2010 2:26 pm
Edited on: November 25, 2010 2:28 pm
 

Did Red Sox mess up in not signing Martinez?

Hot Stove League Did the Red Sox mess up in not signing Victor Martinez?

On one hand, giving four years to an aging catcher rarely works out well. It's a near lock that by year four, the Tigers will be looking forward to the expiration of Martinez' deal just like they did for Magglio Ordonez and are anticipating with Carlos Guillen.

However, does that necessarily  mean the deal is a poor one?

After all, for the next two-to-three years, the Tigers have a premier bat in the middle of the order. While Detroit plans to use him as primarily DH, Boston would have kept him as its backstop for at least the next two seasons. He would have provided incredible value over and above most other catchers, which may have been worth the extra year.

And after those two years, V-Mart could have shifted to first or DH. It's debatable whether he would have had the stick to last at those positions at that point, but one has to imagine he would still be able to bring the thunder. With the flexibility Martinez offers, the team would have been able to go into many different directions -- up to and including trading Martinez if push came to shove.

The Red Sox have experience with a tough situation in the last couple years of a deal, with Mike Lowell finally being erased from the payroll. This may have influenced Boston's thinking, but Martinez is in a bit of a different situation than Lowell, able to catch, play first and DH and would likely have more residual trade value than the longtime Marlin. In addition, injuries largely sunk Lowell and those can't be predicted.

Martinez Over the last few years, GM Theo Epstein has become far more conservative in deals, such as Mark Teixeira. The notable exception is the curious (panic-motivated?) signing of John Lackey. That philosophy has reduced the Red Sox's chances of getting bit, but it's also reduced Boston's chances of contending.

  (It would be a disservice to Epstein here to not point out the decisions that have worked out as a result of his philosophy. Exhibit A is Jason Bay, who may yet still bounce back for New York. You can't assume Bay would have struggled in Fenway like he did for the Mets, nor that he would have suffered a concussion, but facts are facts, and Bay turned in a terrible season.)

Jarrod Saltalamacchia is long on potential and could end up with a Jason Varitek-ian career in Boston, but he could just as easily wash out of his third organization. Boston likely would have been better on the field with Martinez than Saltalamacchia in 2011 and 2012 (unless Salty finally lives up to expectations).

Given the team is built to win now, is the value of those two years worth a potential dropoff in the fourth year of the deal -- or even third year? Is the increased chance of a World Series in the next two seasons worth that one season of gritting your teeth and waiting for Martinez' deal to expire -- if it even happens?

Tough questions. No way to answer them.

But this much is clear: Epstein has become far more conservative in recent years, and has drawn the ire of the fanbase as a result. Whether or not Epstein's lack of going for the jugular is truly holding the team back is a mystery yet to be solved.

-- Evan Brunell

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