Jesse Litsch, Chris Iannetta

Red Sox could look to Iannetta, Napoli with Victor gone

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While the Red Sox made noises about viewing Victor Martinez’s return as a priority, they didn’t get very aggressive with their offers, suggesting that they were prepared to lose him all along. 

In the big picture, that makes sense.  Martinez is a subpar defensive catcher who won’t be getting any better in his mid-30s.   The Tigers will have the option of using him primarily as a DH in the second half of his deal, so maybe it will work out for them.  The Red Sox, though, weren’t interested in paying $12.5 million apiece for his age 34 and 35 seasons.

And if the Red Sox were going to lose Martinez, this was probably the best-case scenario.  The Tigers “lost” a tiebreaker with the A’s at season’s end and thus have the earliest pick in the first round that’s not protected.  If the Tigers had finished 80-82, they would have kept their first-rounder no matter how many free agents they signed this winter.  Since they went 81-81, they’ll lose their first pick, the 19th overall selection*, and it will go to Boston unless the Tigers sign Jayson Werth, Cliff Lee, Mariano Rivera or Rafael Soriano.

(*The Tigers had the 16th best record, but three teams in the top half of the first round are getting compensation picks for failing to sign their selections last summer.)

Martinez’s loss leaves the Red Sox with Jarrod Saltalamacchia and not much else at catcher.  The team was linked with fellow free agent John Buck, but it’s doubtful there was serious interest now, at least not at the kind of dollars he ended up getting from Florida.  A.J. Pierzynski and Miguel Olivo are still out there in free agency, but the Red Sox will probably look to the trade market if they’re going to upgrade from Salty.

The Red Sox have been linked to Iannetta for about a year and a half now, and rumor had the Rockies turning down an offer of Jed Lowrie for him before the trade deadline last season.  Boston would surely prefer to hang on to Lowrie after his strong second half, but a deal involving the two players would still make a lot of sense.  Iannetta doesn’t hit for average, but he’s gotten on base 35 percent of the time in his young career and hit 49 homers in 1,084 at-bats.

Napoli would probably come cheaper.  He’s a weaker defender than Iannetta, but he has basically the same career OPS as Martinez.  Last season, he hit 26 homers in 453 at-bats while splitting time pretty evenly between catcher and first base.   He’s due about $5 million in arbitration, and given Mike Scioscia’s preference for strong defensive catchers, the Angels might be ready to move on.

One more possibility is Russell Martin.  The former All-Star could be non-tendered by the Dodgers after hitting .248/.347/.332 in 331 at-bats during a 2010 season cut short by injury.  He’s declined defensively as well, but at 28, it’d be worth gambling a few million dollars on his ability to rebound.

If the price is right, I expect the Red Sox to come away with one of the trio.  If not, then they could well stick with Salty as their starting catcher and re-sign Jason Varitek or bring in Gregg Zaun as a backup.  They could always reverse course and trade for a veteran over the summer if it doesn’t work out.

Dodgers trade A.J. Ellis to the Phillies for Carlos Ruiz

Atlanta Braves v Los Angeles Dodgers
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MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki reports that the Dodgers have acquired catcher Carlos Ruiz and cash from the Phillies in exchange for catcher A.J. Ellis, minor league pitcher Tommy Bergjans, and a player to be named later. It was reported on Wednesday that Ruiz and first baseman Ryan Howard both cleared waivers and that Ruiz was drawing interest from a couple of teams.

Ruiz, 37, has served as the backup catcher behind Cameron Rupp. Over 193 plate appearances, he hit .261/.368/.352. He continued to play solid defense and has always had a reputation for handling his pitchers very well. In fact, in a commercial for the video game MLB 2k11, former Phillie Roy Halladay essentially professed his love for Ruiz:

Ellis, 35, is a free agent after the season while Ruiz has a club option for the 2017 season worth $4.5 million. It seems likely that the Dodgers pick up that option and make Ruiz Grandal’s backup next year. Ellis hit a lousy .194/.285/.252 in 161 plate appearances, but the Phillies aren’t particularly concerned with his production since they’re still facilitating their rebuilding process.

Bergjans, 23, has spent the season with High-A Rancho Cucamonga. He’s posted a 4.98 ERA with a 133/29 K/BB ratio in 130 innings spanning 21 starts and three relief appearances. He went to school in Haverford, PA so the Phillies are bringing in a local guy.

Jose Bautista returns from the disabled list

TORONTO, CANADA - MAY 29: Jose Bautista #19 of the Toronto Blue Jayshits a two-run home run in the fifth inning during MLB game action against the Boston Red Sox on May 29, 2016 at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images
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Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista has been activated from the 15-day disabled list ahead of Thursday night’s game against the Angels, the club announced. Utilityman Ryan Goins has been optioned to Triple-A Buffalo to create room on the roster.

Bautista missed the minimum 15 days due to a sprained left knee. He’s battled injuries throughout the season, limiting him to just 355 plate appearances over 80 games. He’ll resume play with a .222/.349/.444 triple-slash line, 15 home runs, and 48 RBI.

Bautista is in Thursday night’s starting lineup, batting first and serving as the DH.