Jason Varitek was presumed to be an ex-Red Sox when the team signed catcher Kelly Shoppach a few weeks ago. But club decisionmakers are still considering yet another return to Boston for Varitek, sources familiar with their thinking said.
It's possible Boston people are just being polite to a longtime Red Sox loyalist. But it seems like more than that.
Boston certainly has plenty of catching options already, what with a revamped Jarrod Saltalamacchia, young up and comer Ryan Lavarnway and Shoppach already in the fold. And there wouldn't appear to be much room for Varitek. But Red Sox people value his presence and have taken note of the team's vast successes, even last year, with Varitek behind the plate and are still weighing a return for him for that reason.
CBSSports | Red Sox thinking about Tek return
How appropriate that on the day where the world gets back to normal in the new year, the top Sox story is about bringing back the steadiest hand of the past decade?
There are three ways that Tek can return.
1. The Sox opt to leave Lavarnway in Pawtucket to start the year. They start Salty, have Shoppach as back-up, and Tek takes a bench spot primarily as a mentor.
2. They trade one of Salty, Shoppach, or Lavarnway as part of a package to get a pitcher like Matt Garza or Wandy Rodriguez or any of the other starters kicking around on the trade market. That leaves room for Tek as the 3rd catcher.
3. Tek retires and joins the team in some sort of advisorial role, probably working with the pitching coach in the bullpen.
Do any of these options seem particularly enticing to Tek? If he still wants to play (and until we hear otherwise, let's assume he does), option 3 is gone. As far as the first two options go, you'd have to wonder how much he would play. The Sox wouldn't have signed Kelly Shoppach if they wanted Tek to get the backup catching duties. His bat hasn't exactly been mighty lately, so it's not like he's going to pinch-hit. Pinch-run? Please.
My guess: He'd essentially become Josh Beckett's personal catcher and do nothing else. Salty would start, and maybe DH against some lefties if Papi needs to rest. Shoppach gets whatever starts are left.
I don't see this as likely. But if the Sox really value his presence that much, and he really doesn't want to go elsewhere, that's how it would have to work.