Red Sox should show restraint this offseason, with a catch

Can we please stop with the Brian McCann nonsense?

And by nonsense, I mean the fervent protests as to why the Red Sox shouldn’t pursue the free agent catcher.

Yes, throwing moola at high-priced free agents is what got the Red Sox in ultimate trouble the past four soulless years, and it was Ben Cherington’s restraint last offseason that helped assemble the World Series champions. The same reasons many fans don’t want to see Jacoby Ellsbury locked up long-term for $100 million-plus (injury-prone, the Scott Boras factor, could start losing his boyish good looks around the fifth year of the deal), are the arguments against getting into any sort of marriage with any high-priced free agent. Don’t say we didn’t warn you about Carl Crawford.


But McCann presents an intriguing possibility for the Red Sox, who may be waving goodbye to fellow free agent Jarrod Saltalamacchia after not offering the catcher a qualifying offer earlier this week. Maybe that’s a precursor to working out a deal worth less annually than the $14 million Boston would have been on the hook for in 2014 had Saltalamacchia accepted the offer, or perhaps it was a sign the Red Sox were prepared to move on, and begin their pursuit for the likes of McCann.

Catchers, after all, are like starting pitchers, the crème de la crème are few and far, and worth premium resources.

Nobody is calling McCann Carlton Fisk, but 2013 was the only season since his rookie year that he played in fewer than 121 games. The last season he failed to hit as many as 20 home runs was back in 2007, and though his OPS has slipped the past two seasons, it was over .800 from 2008-11. At 30, he’s a year older than Salty, but comes with a much better reputation of handling a pitching staff, which is significant considering how willing John Farrell was to go with David Ross behind the plate for much of the postseason run. And with David Ortiz bound to ride off into the sunset at some point, McCann could slide into a full-DH role by his third season in Boston.


But the question is, if you only want to go three with Saltalamacchia, would you be willing to go five with McCann?

Why not? It’s not like the ceiling is much higher for McCann, but the consistency year-to-year is an attractive factor for sure. You lose the switch-hitting factor with the left-hitting McCann, but really, (and this does sound silly to say) the difference between signing Saltalamacchia for three years at $30 million or McCann at five years, $75 million is a mere $5 million per year for the next three seasons. Joel Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey made a combined $11 million last season for 36 total innings.

It’s not just that the Red Sox have the cash to toss at free agents, and can survive even when there’s $11 million wasted, but in 2014, they’ll have even more resources with which to build their club. The new TV deal between Major League Baseball and Fox, ESPN, and Turner, doubles the amount of money each team will receive from the networks, from $25.53 million to $51.67 million next year. While the David Glasses and Jim Pohlads of the world will more than likely pocket that extra revenue and build another outdoor kitchen at the Telluride manse, the Red Sox are more than likely to re-invest those funds in their payroll. That might mean giving Mike Napoli a two-year deal, and having to succumb to giving Stephen Drew $14 million when he eventually accepts that ridiculous qualifying offer.

Where else you want to spend it? Maybe the Sox think they can have a more potent lineup with Carlos Beltran or Curtis Granderson in left over Daniel Nava. Jackie Bradley, Jr. seems a shoo-in for center, and Shane Victorino is here for two more seasons. There’s nothing on the market that makes you want to give up on Will Middlebrooks (unless Xander Bogaerts moves to third full-time), and, barring trade, the rotation is already stacked.


Doesn’t it make sense then to invest in catching?

“Certainly Boston is a city that Brian likes, and he has always respected the organization and the front office,” B.B. Abbott, managing partner at Jet Sports Management, told the Boston Herald. “Obviously, the coaching staff and clubhouse unity is attractive. He has also always been fascinated with the fan base, their support of the Red Sox and the history of the organization. Boston would certainly be a place that would be a consideration for Brian.”

Abbott, of course, probably repeated that same speech to 10 other teams, so it’s easy to not make too much of it. But it’s a statement that was probably also sent out to the Yankees, who also have interest in the free agent catcher, and a nifty little short porch in right field that might make McCann drool.

They have the cash. They have the need. Let’s stop arguing why McCann doesn’t fit here and think of the possibilities instead.

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