Catching chatter

So it’s been a long, cold wait for the Hot Stove season to start warming up. But, with the winter meetings right around the corner, there seems to be a glimmer of hope that things could start happening soon. Or maybe not.

At least we’ll all be headed to Las Vegas on Sunday to find out.

For now, in the rush up to the meetings, general manager Theo Epstein addressed a couple of pressing topics that the Red Sox will have to address in the coming days, weeks, and months. And chief among those is the catching situation. To wit, the Red Sox don’t exactly have a starting catcher at the moment with Jason Varitek a free agent and Kevin Cash not an option to start.

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While there haven’t been any new developments in terms of a potential deal with Varitek, Epstein did allow that the team could both sign the Sox captain and make a trade for a catcher of the future in the same offseason.

“It’s probably broader than people think, maybe not so deep,” Epstein said, of the trade market for catching. “If you study all the clubs, there are more teams with a catcher to move than one might think or that maybe is being represented. That doesn’t mean that we’ve found a way to match up yet. We haven’t. Probably more teams out there with catching that they can move than anticipated.

He added, “We also have catchers waiting in the minor leagues who are talented, but maybe not quite ready to step into a prominent role right now. We’ll see. I’m confident that we [will] find a way to end up with a reputable catching corps that we hope will have us set up not only for 2009, but also for the future.”

One seeming stumbling block to making a trade and re-signing Varitek would be the Tim Wakefield issue. While Cash — who is arbitration-eligible and on the roster right now — was Wakefield’s catcher this past season, that doesn’t mean that the Sox will necessarily need a personal catcher for the knuckleballer in the future.

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“We have to be mindful of the fact that Wake can be a challenge for some catchers,” Epstein said. “At the same time, I don’t know that even Wake feels we should limit our options at catcher because of any one pitcher. We just have to strike the right balance. [Varitek’s] caught him in the past. We’ll see. There’s no news on that front. He’s always been an option to catch him. He’s caught him in the past. It’s obviously something that [Terry Francona’s] stayed away from in recent years.”