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Buster Olney on Mut & Merloni: Could medical concerns be hindering Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s market?

11.27.13 at 1:06 pm ET
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In his weekly interview on WEEI’s Mut & Merloni show, ESPN’s Buster Olney took stock of the catching market now that free agents such as Brian McCann, Carlos Ruiz and Geovany Soto have signed. Olney suggested that he believed that the Red Sox might pursue a short-term solution such as Reds catcher Ryan Hanigan (who hit .198/.306/.261 last year, but who owns a career line of .262/.359/.343 and is considered a strong defensive presence) based on the desire to keep the door open for the team’s up-and-coming prospects (Christian Vazquez, Blake Swihart) behind the plate.

“I think Ryan Hannigan is an interesting stopgap for the Red Sox. We know that the Tampa Bay Rays have always had a lot of interest before 2013. He was a high on-base percentage guy who was dealing with a wrist injury last year so he wasn’t healthy, didn’t hit. He doesn’t really hit for power. In that regard, he doesn’t really fit the prototype for the Red Sox,” said Olney. “But it feels like it’s kind of a bridge year for their catchers. It feels like if they buy a little time, they can develop those catchers. I think he would be an option.”

Olney suggested that it seemed curious that a market had yet to take shape for free agent Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Given his performance relative to that of other free agents on the market, Olney wondered whether medical issues might be hindering the 28-year-old’s market following a career-best season in which he hit .273/.338/.466 with 14 homers and 40 doubles while playing in 121 regular season games.   

“I think the big question about Saltalamacchia — and believe me, you hear a lot of different things about a lot of different guys and I don’t know what’s in Jarrod’s file — but in some cases, some of the intransigence in the market is related to whatever’s in the medical file,” said Olney. “We saw it last winter with Mike Napoli where not only did the Red Sox reduce their file down to one year and $5 million but no other team jumped in based on the same information. With catchers, it’s certainly going to be one of the first things you’re going to look at. It says a lot that you have the Cubs and a number of other teams that are out there potentially looking at catchers, no one’s jumping up.”

Olney also suggested that he did not see a market emerging for another Red Sox free agent, shortstop Stephen Drew — particularly given that Drew, after turning down the Red Sox’ one-year, $14.1 million qualifying offer, would require any team that signs him to give up a draft pick. Asked if Olney saw a market for Drew’s services, Olney responded flatly, “No. And I think that people thought maybe the Mets would be involved. They’re not interested at that kind of price. The Cardinals, would they be involved? No, they signed Jhonny Peralta.

“[Drew's agent] Scott Boras knows a lot more about this kind of stuff than I ever would, [but] I thought it was a giant mistake for Stephen Drew not to take the qualifying offer,” said Olney. “I think it’s the same case for [free agent first baseman] Kendrys Morales. For both those players, when you look around at possible alternatives, I just don’t see teams jumping in and willing to pay $14 million a year.”

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