As far as catchers go, the current bar is set pretty low. It doesn’t take more than a cursory look through the baseball reference or Fangraphs to notice how poorly, as a group, catchers perform – making the standout seasons of MVP candidates Buster Posey, Yadier Molina, and even Joe Mauer & Carlos Ruiz that much more praiseworthy.
If the current crop of starting catchers is bad, the league’s backup catcher detritus will leave you wincing. As a Blue Jays fan, the noticeable drop-off between starter J.P. Arencibia (no great shakes himself) and the parade of mediocrity that feebly filled in when Arencibia missed time with injury was a rude awakening to the appreciable difference between and everyday catcher and a backup.
IF a good starting catcher is hard to find, a good backup might be even harder to come by (but not more valuable, don’t be ridiculous.) Which makes the Red Sox acquisition of former Barves backup/Brian McCann running mate David Ross on a two-year, $6.2 million deal a very nice piece of business for Ben Cherington and crew.
This marks David Ross’ second tour of duty with the Red Sox, as he appeared in eight games in 2008 after he was released by the Cincinnati Reds. During his time with the Braves (2009-2012), David Ross and Brian McCann gave the Braves one of the best catching tandems in baseball, amassing more than 22 Fangraphs Wins Above Replacement, the best mark in baseball.
David Ross ranks among the top 20 catchers over that time frame in fWAR despite appearing in only 227 games while his .357 wOBA ranks sixth among catchers with at least 500 plate appearances. Which says nothing of his defense, a skill of Ross’ many regard highly. Our own Matt Klaasen has David Ross 14th in his final catcher defense ratings of 2012.
Ken Rosenthal reports the 36-year old is not the Red Sox starter though he isn’t a strict backup either. The Red Sox now have the flexibility to either move one of Jarrod Saltalamacchia or Ryan Lavarnway, their current catching tandem. Trade or, in the case Lavarnway, allow the Red Sox to to assess their roles in the future as the young backstop struggled mighty in 2012, both at the plate and behind the dish.
Some of the top backup catchers now available on the FA market are Laird, Miguel Olivo (starter at 34?), Matt Treanor (history w/ Fredi)
— Mark Bowman (@mlbbowman) November 10, 2012
This tweet from Braves writer Mark Bowman illustrates just how dire the market is for backup catchers. Maybe Rod Barajas is more your taste? Grim, grim stuff. The Braves are about to learn about the harsh reality of backup catcher, as shoulder surgery might keep McCann out in the early going of 2013 and Christian Bethancourt – the closest catcher to the big leagues in the Barves system – is something of an enigma.
The Red Sox made out very, very well with this deal. Ross is getting older but his skills are well-established and the money is easily swallowed by the big budget BoSox. The dollars won’t prevent Boston from making any bigger splashes and, as Over the Monster notes, even if Ross declines with age, he’s still a great option for 200 plate appearances a season. The first of many moves the Red Sox figure to make this off-season is a good one.