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In-house catching options for the Red Sox

Posted by Peter Abraham, Globe Staff  November 24, 2010 09:59 AM

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The Red Sox drew a line with Victor Martinez for two primary reasons: They had concerns about his defense and they were content to get two draft picks in return.

For more on why they value the draft picks, see this post from earlier in the week.

The single best way to ensure an organization's long-term success is to draft well and develop your own stars rather than paying for them as free agents or trading for them. The more picks, the better the odds of that. Within Fenway Park, yesterday's news was looked at as a short-term loss but a long-term gain.

As a fan looking forward to 2011, that's not what you want to hear, But if you plan to be a Red Sox fan in the years to come, you should be OK with it.

The third factor in letting Martinez go was the team's faith in their catching prospects. Jarrod Saltalamacchia was the focus yesterday, but he's not alone on that list. Let's look at the others:

Ryan Lavarnway: No prospect has taken a bigger step forward in the last year. A 23-year-old draft pick (8th round, 2008) from Yale, Lavarnway started last season in Single A Salem and was promoted to Portland, where he had an .888 OPS for 44 games. That earned him a spot in the Arizona Fall League and he hit well there (.795 OPS).

Lavarnway has only been catching full-time since 2007 and is still developing his defensive skills. But player development director Mike Hazen raves about his work ethic and the improvement he has shown behind the plate since the start of last season.

Lavarnway could start next season in Portland and make the move to Pawtucket and perhaps even to Boston before the year is out.

Luis Exposito: He has fallen behind Lavarnway a bit, but the Sox saw fit to put him on the 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 draft. A 31st-round pick in 2005, Exposito spent all of last season in Portland and did not hit as well (.260/.339/.416) as he did the previous year.

A solid defensive player, the 23-year-old Exposito impressed the Sox during spring training last season.

Adalberto Ibarra: A Cuban defector, Ibarra was signed last spring then lingered for a while in the Dominican Republic while his visa issues were cleared up. He played 19 games before underdoing had shoulder surgery that will keep him out until spring training.

Ibarra played a variety of positions in Cuba but the Sox like his potential as a catcher along with his advanced approach at the plate. But he is at least two years away, if not more.

Tim Federowicz: A seventh-round pick out of North Carolina in 2008, Federowicz has excellent defensive skills but hit only .253/.324/.371 for Salem last year. He needs a big 2011 to get back in the mix.

Dan Butler: The Daniel Nava of catchers, Butler was a backup at Arizona and was signed as an undrafted free agent in 2009. Against all odds, he made his way to Salem and hit well there last year (.292/.434/.425) along with showing excellent defensive ability.

Mark Wagner: Now 26, Wagner is at a career crossroads. He didn't hit well in Pawtucket after getting called up in 2009. Then he played only 40 games last season because of a broken left hand. But he remains on the 40-man roster and it wasn't that long ago the Sox were high on him.

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Unless there is some breaking news, that could be it today. I'm headed out of town for the holiday. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family and stay safe.


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