In Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Kelly Shoppach and Ryan Lavarnway, the Red Sox have three catchers to fit into two spots on the Opening Day roster. Carrying three catchers in the American League makes little sense.
Based on what Ben Cherington said today, the Sox may prefer that Lavarnway start the season in the minors and continue to refine his skills. He played only 61 games in Triple A last season. He showed he can hit, but the rookie is still learning the finer points of his position.
That would seem to leave little room for Jason Varitek on the roster. Here was Cherington's take this morning:
"As far as Tek is concerned, we have incredible respect for Tek. I have incredible respect for Tek on a personal level. We as an organization and an ownership have incredible respect for him and the contributions he's made and I think our hope is that Tek will always be part of the Red Sox in some way. As far as what this means immediately, what we want to do is keep talking to Tek and not discuss that in a public forum but keep taking to Tek and Scott [Boras] and figure out what's best for the Red Sox, best for him and we look forward to doing that."
Translation: They do not see him on the roster but perhaps in some role in the organization.
Varitek has made it clear he wants to keep playing. The question is what opportunities are out there for him as a player. The second part is what role the Red Sox could have for him.
Many well-meaning fans would like Varitek to be a coach. But it would be hard to play with a team one season and be a coach the next. Some kind of transition is usually needed for the sake of everybody involved. That could be in the minors or in the form of a front-office job.
Being a coach for a major league team is not a glamorous or especially well-paid job. It's a lot of throwing batting practice, watching video, preparing reports and shagging balls during optional BP. It's more work and less pay in the minors and you're traveling around by bus.
Varitek is newly married and has three daughters from his first marriage. It may be worth it to him to be away from his family for the sake of playing and making $2 million a year. But would it be worth the personal sacrifice to coach?
When I asked him that last spring, he laughed and said maybe after a few years. Don't forget, this is a man who has made approximately $70 million. He could go sit by a pool if he wants and enjoy the fruits of his labor.
It will be interesting to see how the situation is settled. If Jason wants to keep playing, good luck to him. Going to play for another team for a year or two would not diminish what he means to the Red Sox. Heck, he may find it invigorating.
At some point, whether it's in 2012 or sometime down the road, the Red Sox will have a door open to him.