Four Catchers Red Sox Could Target After Connor Wong Injury

It's slim pickings on the backstop market

by

Mar 3, 2023

The Red Sox’s uncertainty behind the plate became more pronounced Thursday when catcher Connor Wong suffered an injury during Boston’s spring training win over the Philadelphia Phillies.

Alex Cora told reporters Friday that Wong is dealing with a Grade 1 left hamstring strain — a rather encouraging prognosis after the Red Sox manager said Thursday the injury “didn’t look great” — but there is no exact timetable for Wong’s return. Boston basically is in wait-and-see mode.

On the surface, this might not seem like a big problem. Wong, despite his upside, has just 33 games (70 plate appearances) of major league experience. And there already was a chance Jorge Alfaro, a seven-year MLB veteran signed to a minor league contract over the offseason, would crack the Opening Day roster (over Wong) as Boston’s second catcher alongside Reese McGuire. But it’s a notable development, nevertheless, because the Red Sox chose not to upgrade the catching position this winter. Now, their depth already is being tested with the regular season roughly four weeks away.

The Red Sox could simply stay the course, with Alfaro’s chances of starting the season in Boston increasing if Wong’s injury lingers. Alfaro isn’t on the 40-man roster — a source told MassLive’s Chris Cotillo his deal with the Red Sox includes an “upward mobility” clause — but adding him feels prudent, especially since Boston can easily option Wong to Triple-A Worcester to begin the year. (Both Alfaro and Wong are right-handed hitters, whereas McGuire bats from the left side.)

Beyond that, the Red Sox have catchers Ronaldo Hern├índez, Caleb Hamilton, Stephen Scott and Elih Marrero in camp as non-roster invitees. So, there’s certainly quantity, if not quality, from which to choose while sorting the organizational depth chart.

And if Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom looks to add to the catching mix? Well, it’s admittedly slim pickings in free agency, and Boston might want to see what happens in the World Baseball Classic or how camp battles across the league shake out. But, for our purposes, where’s the fun in sitting around?

Here are four catchers the Red Sox (realistically?) could target in wake of Wong’s injury.

Gary Sanchez, free agent
Yankees fans have begun speculating whether the Bronx Bombers might reunite with Sanchez, who spent his first seven seasons in New York — a rollercoaster ride that involved two All-Star appearances and plenty of criticism — before suiting up for the Minnesota Twins in 2022. The 30-year-old has his flaws — most notably his defense and his penchant for striking out — but he has big-time power from the right side, as well, evidenced by his career 162-game average (37 home runs, 98 RBIs, 109 OPS+). He, without question, has the highest upside of any catcher available on the open market, making him an intriguing option if you can stomach the potential downside that also comes with his skill set.

Robinson Chirinos, free agent
Chirinos was a late bloomer, not garnering his first extensive playing time until his age-30 season with the Texas Rangers in 2014. At age 38, he’s really nothing more than a journeyman, spending time with the Houston Astros, New York Mets, Chicago Cubs and Baltimore Orioles (in addition to the Rangers) since 2019. But he was decent enough in his “prime,” even posting a 3.9-WAR season with Houston in 114 games in ’19. You could do worse, if you’re really desperate.

Sandy Leon, Texas Rangers
This one is two-fold: Leon is familiar with the Red Sox organization, having spent five seasons with Boston from 2015 to 2019, and the Rangers have enough catching depth (Jonah Heim and Mitch Garver, plus Sam Huff waiting in the wings) that he might soon become expendable. Plus, Leon is regarded as a good defensive catcher. So, it’s not like he’s useless, despite some glaring offensive shortcomings.

Cam Gallagher, Cleveland Guardians
Gallagher’s situation is similar to Leon’s in that he ultimately might fall victim to a numbers game. The Guardians have Gallagher, Zack Collins and Meibrys Viloria in camp as non-roster invitees, with Bo Naylor and Bryan Lavastida the main candidates for a backup role behind starter Mike Zunino. Collins and Viloria are left-handed hitters, so Gallagher, a right-handed bat, would be the best fit of that trio for Boston.

Recent retirees of note: Kurt Suzuki, Stephen Vogt, Jason Castro

Thumbnail photo via David Richard/USA TODAY Sports Images
Cincinnati Bearcats wide receiver Tyler Scott
Previous Article

Patriots Coach Has Long-Standing Connection To This Wideout Prospect

Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand
Next Article

Brad Marchand Explains Injury That Knocked Him From Bruins-Sabres Game

Picked For You