As prospects continue to develop on the farm, the Sox are looking at a stopgap payer for a couple of years to tandem with David Ross and, possibly, Ryan Lavarnway behind the plate. Navarro, who played 89 games for the Chicago Cubs last season, fit that role to a tee.
Slugging 13 home runs and hitting .300, Navarro broke out of a three-year slump this past season. A one-time All-Star catcher with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2008, Navarro struggled with Tampa to the point where he was demoted to the minors and then had short stints with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Cincinnati Reds before hooking up with the Cubs at the start of this season.
Navarro presented the Red Sox a low-risk player capable of catching around 80 games and already familiar with playing in the division. The contract the Blue Jays signed him too was as much of a low-cost signing you can possibly have. Due $3 million in 2014, Navarro’s deal increases to $5 million in 2015.
Saltalamacchia made $4.5 million for Boston in 2013 and had a similar up-and-down career before coming to Boston in a trade with the Texas Rangers in 2010. If the Red Sox are willing to let Saltalamacchia walk, Navarro fit the same profile of a cheap player on the verge of finding his game that Saltalamacchia grew into over three-plus years.
Would Boston rather have Saltalamacchia over Navarro? Of course, but only if the price is right.
Having given every indication they are ready to move on from Saltalamacchia, however, the Red Sox losing Navarro to a division rival for what amounts to a warm bucket of spit is puzzling.
Texas catcher A.J. Pierzynski has also been the subject of offseason rumors regarding Boston and he is more willing to go short-term than Saltalamacchia. On the other hand, he is 36 and is more likely to split time at first base wherever he ends up. In comparison, Navarro turns 30 before Spring Training starts.
The Red Sox were absolutely correct in not chasing Brian McCann the way the New York Yankees did. Signing any catcher to a guaranteed five-year deal—with a vesting option to a sixth year—goes against how the Sox brain trust does business in the mid-2010s. The potential of that deal biting the Yankees is higher than it looking like a bargain when all is said and done.
Passing on Navarro, however, does not look like a smart move. It is possible that they are on the verge of either signing Pierzynski or re-signing Saltalamacchia—making all this moot—but with so few whispers coming from Fenway or the players, you get the sense the Sox whiffed on this one.
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