Since the Red Sox’ season came to an end the pitching staff has lost a respected coach in John Farrell and a starting catcher that they loved to work with in Victor Martinez. Bidding adieu to captain Jason Varitek, as instrumental as anyone in guiding the staff, would’ve represented a third punch in the gut, especially with the way it would have left the catching corps.
That is no longer a concern after the Sox re-signed Varitek to a one-year deal worth $2 million plus incentives, a deal reported by NESN’s Peter Gammons on Thursday afternoon. Often considered the rock in the clubhouse, Varitek offers much-needed stability to several areas teeming with uncertainty.
In addition to acting as a stabilizing force for the pitching staff and incoming pitching coach Curt Young, Varitek will also serve as the backup to the young and unproven Jarrod Saltalamacchia. The club has expressed confidence in the 25-year-old as its primary backstop, and the Varitek signing confirms that they are content going that route.
Should Saltalamacchia stumble in his new role and the Red Sox turn their attention to those coming down the pipeline (Ryan Lavarnway, specifically), Varitek will now be in the fold to help guide those youngsters as well. His presence alone in Fort Myers will mean so much to what was an intriguing but untested catching corps from top to bottom.
It has been over two years since Varitek’s production at the plate meant a lot to the club. His bat had slowed and a full-time role had made him a bit of a liability at the bottom of the lineup. But the 38-year-old showed in limited duty last year that he can still produce when given some time off and has so gracefully assumed his role as mentor that bringing him back in a time of unpredictability makes all the sense in the world.
When the season ended and Varitek became a free agent he expressed his desire to return but also admitted that he had no clue what would happen. He was linked in rumors to Philadelphia and Los Angeles, but the return to Boston is beneficial for both sides. Saltalamacchia has his guide. Young has the guy he can turn to on a daily basis. The minor league catchers have a guy to emulate. And the pitching staff has a figure of trust after already losing two.
While playing every three days or so in the beginning of the 2010 season, Varitek raced to a phenomenal start. On May 11 he was hitting .342 with six homers in just 14 games, looking nothing like the guy whose numbers had been sagging for three years.
Varitek was able to play in only 25 more games due to a broken foot that robbed him of over two months. Some have suggested that because he showed what he can do in a part-time role with the fast start and because his body was spared the wear and tear due to the injury that Varitek had something left to give.
Even if it comes in the form of advice to a struggling pitcher or a suggestion to a young catcher, he will provide that sorely needed “something” in his 15th season with the Red Sox.