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Catching fallout

Posted by Amalie Benjamin  December 8, 2008 01:04 PM

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LAS VEGAS -- By now, you probably know that the Rangers have dealt Gerald Laird to the Tigers for two minor league pitchers. It was just announced here at the Bellagio by the Tigers.

The deal has ramifications for the Sox, of course, in two ways.

First, that takes a team out of the running for the services of Jason Varitek, which limits his options on the free agent market now that he declined arbitration from the Sox last night. The Tigers have been frequently rumored as a potential landing spot for the Sox captain, based on need. No longer.

On Varitek, Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski said, "He was a guy when we looked at the situation for us, once he was offered arbitration I think that probably put a big dent in any pursuit we would have at that point, being with the situation that we would have to give away a high-ranking draft choice next year. He's a guy that we considered."

Second, that means the Rangers are probably somewhat less likely to trade their remaining catching talent, though they certainly could trade two of the four. Texas had four catchers available: Laird, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Taylor Teagarden, and Max Ramirez, the last of whom many feel is not ultimately a catcher.

So the Rangers are in a position where they could keep their top two catchers -- Saltalamacchia and Teagarden -- and let them split time behind the plate. Though if the Red Sox are interested in parting with, say, Clay Buchholz or other young pitching talent, that would likely change things. Could that mean that one of those catchers could be available at the trading deadline, once the Rangers see what they have in the two players after another half a season? Or is one still available now?

The Sox were not particularly interested in Laird, who does not have the best defensive reputation. One baseball talent evaluator said earlier this year that pitchers are not always fond of throwing to the catcher.

One more note: Saltalamacchia actually caught a knuckleballer on Sunday in the Dominican Winter League. His choice. No wild pitches or passed balls in a brief chance at the dancing pitch.

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