Cup O’ Tea-garden.
The Boston Red Sox offered Jason Varitek arbitration. Varitek declined, making whatever contract he signs a little too long for my liking. Had Varitek accepted, the Red Sox would have had him for a season to see if there is anything left in that swing. But Varitek declined, now assuming if he seeks employment elsewhere, and succeeds, the Red Sox would receive a draft pick due to Varitek being a “Type-A” free agent. 2009 with Jason Varitek is not frowned upon by this party of one, but 2010 might be. So what do the Red Sox do?
Well, there is a catcher sitting in the hot sun in Texas whose name you may have heard of: Taylor Teagarden. Teagarden is 25, and from my understanding, based on stats and matters that originate from the subjective, the guy is a heck of a baseball talent. Teagarden turned 25 just four days ago. So far in his young minor league career, young because of an injury setback, Taylor Teagarden is summed up best, statistically, as this: .267/.390/.509. Keith Law projected the catcher, before the 2008 season, as potentially one of the top five-ten catchers in Major League Baseball (in the future of course). Law also refers to Teagarden as a “plus defender.” The one downside to the backstop seems to be his lack of arm strength. Although it does not sound as though he has a terrible arm, it definitely sounds like it would be a liability before it would ever be considered a strength (although Law states that he may end up with a “plus arm” as well as it wasn’t fully recovered from Tommy John surgery when he wrote this).
But while acquiring Teagarden via trade makes a lot of sense, it is easier said than done. First, the Rangers will require the Red Sox throw in a pitcher with a lot of talent, and probably a little more in addition to that. Good hitting catchers don’t exactly form simply from pixie dust. And with defensive skills that seem to be better than the average catcher, one can see why Taylor Teagarden could be a very good all around friend of the pitcher. Teagarden displays good patience, what seems to be above average power, and would love to be aiming at the Green Monster, since he is a RH hitter. I am no scout, but I went back to watch one of his AB’s from 2008, one in which he homered, which was very much on purpose. His approach and recognition reminded me a little of Jason Bay’s, although I doubt his power ever approaches that of Bay’s, and if he hit like Jason Bay from that position, he would be the best player in baseball. So it is unfair to think that he will be as good a hitter as Bay. Teagarden’s approach simply reminded me of Bay in the one AB I went and checked out.
Another reason why the Rangers could possibly keep Teagarden rather than their other promising catching prospect, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, is because Teagarden is more of a proven commodity in the patience department. Even though he has played every game of his pro baseball career, aside from 16 games, Teagarden has actually shown a lot of promise and can draw a walk or 80. Aside from 2008, he has hit the ball very well in each of his minor league seasons, while being patient at every level. Saltalamacchia, for whatever reason, is not regarded as a good defender, or at least I have heard. But he too has hit well in his pro career, even though his power has not translated to the Major League level in roughly a full season’s worth of action. And as far as patience is concerned, Jarrod has it, but not quite to the extent of Teagarden
Jason Varitek has proven to be a great team player. His apparent genius in the area of “game calling,” and the fact that he has served as a good backstop have been valued by the players around the Red Sox organization. But if he cannot hit, then he cannot hit. Since Teixeira was not signed, then the Red Sox making a move for their catcher of the future seems even more logical. Signing Tex would have made them the favorites in 2009, where as now they are simply among other contenders competing for the right to be the “favorites.” Since Varitek’s contract is up, this may be the best time to part ways with him. Receive a draft pick, move on, move forward, and hope for the best in 2009 with whatever catcher they can get.
But even I do not know what the Red Sox would truly be losing if Varitek were to leave…