The Red Sox catching situation was stable in 2013 Jarrod Saltalamacchia, a regular since 2011, had a career-best .273 average with 14 homers and 65 rbi’s. He had 40 doubles, only the 13th catcher ever to accomplish the feat. Saltalamacchia was backed up by David Ross, a capable sub and favorite of Jon Lester.
But in a move that baffled many fans, the team did not tender a free-agent offer to Salty.He ended up signing for three years with Miami. Ben Cherington apparently thought that young Christian Vasquez was almost ready, but as a “bridge”, he picked up 37-year-old AJ Pierzynski, with Ross still at backup. The move was disastrous. Not only did Pierzynski, a .281 lifetime hitter, fade to .251 with a .286 OBP and .349 SLG, but was an unsettling clubhouse presence. In early July he was designated for assignment (basically a release), and Vasquez was brought up. On a team of serious undrachievers, Vasquez was a bright spot, though his .240 average left a bit to be desired. For a rookie handling an unsettled pitching staff, however, he appeared confident and ready for the big time.
But expecting a second-year catcher to take over the permanent job was risky, especially with Ross’s departure. Therefore, in a complex deal that involved Tampa Bay, San Diego, and Washington, the Sox recently picked up Ryan Hanigan. Though not a familiar name, Hanigan could be a strong addition. A 34-year-old with local roots (Andover High School), he made it to the big leagues at 27. Hanigan spent 4 years with the Reds as a good-hitting backup receiver, though showing little power. The last two years have seen his offensive numbers drop, though this could be partly blamed on injuries.
In his Baseball column, the Globe’s Nick Cafardo calls Hanigan “a great game caller and pitchers love him. He frames pitches as well as any catcher in the game.” Unlike Pierzynski, he does not come with negative baggage.
The front office may not have restored the catching area to its 2013 level, but the Vasquez-Hanigan combination appears promising.