Hernandez trade shifts catching market

LAS VEGAS — The Reds and Orioles injected a bit of life into the winter meetings by making a deal. The O’s get utilityman Ryan Freel, two minor league infielders, and $1 million. The Reds get catcher Ramon Hernandez.

What this means for the Red Sox: First, the Reds are no longer a possible landing spot for Jason Varitek, joining the Tigers, who traded for Gerald Laird, as a team that has filled its catching hole during these meetings. Second, they will be seeing a lot of Baltimore catcher Matt Wieters, the No. 5 overall pick in the 2007 draft and the reigning minor league prospect of the year.

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“This was all about Matt Wieters,” Orioles general manager Andy MacPhail said. “It had been our goal to make sure we could introduce him this season.”

Wieters will be Baltimore’s everyday catcher by year’s end if all goes well. But Wieters is not quite ready for Opening Day, and MacPhail knew Hernandez would chafe at split playing time. So while they couldn’t keep Hernandez, the Orioles need a mentor-type for Wieters.

“We very much would be looking for some veteran catching,” MacPhail said. “We would try to add at least one veteran catcher before spring training.”

Wieters is often compared to Varitek. They are both switch-hitters, they both attended Georgia Tech, and they are of similar stature. But Baltimore also can be ruled out as a possible destination for Varitek. The catcher would not want to sit on the bench as Wieters assumes the starting job, and the Orioles aren’t looking to make quite that big of a splash with the player who will be the bridge between Hernandez and Wieters.

Speaking of Varitek, his agent, Scott Boras (who also represents Wieters), has yet to address the media here. He walked this morning from the elevator where most folks are gathered to go to the Bellagio workout room. When approached, he said, “I’m not doing any press stuff until later tonight.”

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If and when that happens, his comments will be posted here.

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