One of these years the Red Sox will actually start a season without Jason Varitek wearing one of their uniforms. It just won't be the 2011 season.
Varitek has signed a one-year, $2 million contract with the Red Sox for next season. Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe also reports that he can make another $300,000 in incentives based on playing time. Those incentives make it pretty clear that Varitek will be filling a backup role for Boston in 2011.
Right now, the starting catcher appears to be Jarrod Saltalamacchia. The former hot prospect with the Braves and Rangers fell on hard times in 2010 when he struggled to throw the ball back to the pitcher. He wound up in Triple-A with Texas before a July trade brought him to Boston. He played 10 games for the Sox behind Victor Martinez last season.
It's not the easiest spot for Saltalamacchia. The Sox probably will still listen to offers for a starter who has produced and played a bit more during their careers and he's hardly going to have the luxury of not looking over his shoulder come next season. Varitek remains a very popular character at Fenway Park, and early struggles by Salty could very easily turn into calls for a return to the status quo behind the plate.
Well, as much of a status quo as still exists for Varitek. He played only 39 games last season because of injuries and he's been a nightmare offensively in every season but one since an excellent 2005 season. Nostalgic fan wishes aside, there's virtually no upside for the Red Sox if Varitek becomes their regular catcher.
It would almost wind up being a better situation for Salty if they do bring in another catcher that allows him to start the year in Triple-A. If he tears things up down there while the guys in Boston scuffle, he can become the grass that's greener to the media and fan base. That's a much smoother transition than starting with Varitek looming in the background.