Pardon me while I get completely belligerent for a minute, but the Red Sox just signed 32 year old Kelly Shoppach as catcher and I can’t wrap my head around what on earth Ben Cherington is thinking, let alone smoking. Whatever it is, I’d like the number of his dealer.
There’s so many reasons why this is a terrible idea. Let’s start with Varitek. I completely realize that he’s turning 40, is a free agent, and couldn’t throw out Prince Fielder if he were stealing, but a big piece of me is screaming that playing on a team for your entire career, catching 1,488 games (the most in Red Sox history), and being a leader in a broken club house that currently needs leaders, grants you just a tiny bit of gravitas and respect. Even if you don’t want him to be your starting catcher, you can at least platoon him, or make him a bench coach or something! Hell, if I had a vote today, right this second, I would retire his number. That’s nothing I say very lightly. He should be a permanent addition to Red Sox lore. Period, end of story. Just look at what they did to Fisk. After all he did for the team, they let him play out his last years in Chicago. That’s pathetic. The front office should still be ashamed of that, let alone what they’re trying to now do to Tek. If he wants to hang around, make him bench coach. He’s EARNED that much.
It’s also not an even trade in terms of numbers. Shoppach is a LIFETIME .224 hitter and hasn’t hit over .200 for the past two seasons. He had an anomaly of a stat of 41% thrown out last year but his lifetime average is only 28%. Varitek is a .260 hitter with better lifetime throw-out percentages. Just an FYI, the “league average” is 27%, and your statistical life time leader (from 2008-current) is Yadier Molina with 34%. So, we’re really splitting hairs here. Shoppach is worse at the plate, worse behind the plate, but is just slightly younger. If signing him to replace Varitek’s aging bat was the goal, someone really screwed up.
The second huge problem with this is that they have not one but two perfectly capable catchers. Saltalamacchia and Lavarnway. Salty is more than capable on a day to day basis, his bat is improving and so is his arm. He’s not a long term solution, but he should fill in nicely for 2-3 years until Lavarnway is ready. Lavarnway is, at least in my mind, better than Salty and will be the next Carlton Fisk (or Jason Varitek). He’s shown all sorts of improvement and should be given at least the back-up roll if not a platoon position right off the bat. Instead, he’ll spend the year in Pawtucket while this Shoppach moron gets his job.
Of course there are all sorts of off-season trade rumors about why they brought in Shoppach. People have been saying that we’ll send Salty somewhere to pick up a pitcher, or we’ll trade Lavarnway for the same. I can’t honestly believe that. Lavarnway is the best prospect they have at the moment. For Pawtucket to just be producing talent for some other team is really starting to get my blood boiling. Yes, sometimes you send a couple prospects in a trade to get someone like Gonzalez. You don’t do it every single year. What does that say about the faith in your farm system? That you’d rather spend huge amounts of cash for some aging, past-their-prime, middle rotation pitcher and/or outfielder? You’ve got to be kidding me. Listen Sox, you’ve got one of the deepest, most fruitful farm systems around. If the entire team, heaven forbid, dies in a plane crash, you’ve probably got enough young talent for 3 or 4 teams just waiting and ready to go. They are not some extra sprinkles to be thrown onto a deal to get you more useless semi-stars.
You’ve got 1 captain, deserving of at least a courtesy call, or at least some consideration. You’ve got 2 young catchers, ready to step up into the big leagues. Use the talent and money and prospects you have to secure pitching (our biggest problem). Do not waste your time picking up catchers that are statistically worse than any of the three you already have, and especially don’t pay them $1.35 million.
All this does is close the door on the Varitek era in the most slap-in-the-face way possible. He deserved better, we deserved better, and you are most certainly not instilling confidence in your new GM skills with boneheaded moves like this. The Nation is not pleased Ben. The Nation is not pleased.