Will Jason Varitek follow Tim Wakefield into retirement?

7 Comments

Boston offered minor-league contracts and spring training invitations to both Tim Wakefield and Jason Varitek. Wakefield opted against battling for a roster spot at age 45, announcing his retirement today, but the 40-year-old Varitek is apparently still trying to make up his mind.

Varitek’s agent, Scott Boras, told Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald that the catcher has “not made any decisions yet” about his plans for 2012.

By signing Kelly Shoppach to back up Jarrod Saltamacchia the Red Sox are seemingly set at catcher and Varitek wasn’t linked to many other teams during the offseason. It’s possible he could draw interest from teams if a starting catcher goes down with a spring training injury, but Ivan Rodriguez and Jason Kendall are also available if veteran-ness is the only qualification needed.

Varitek hit .221 with a .300 on-base percentage and .423 slugging percentage in 250 plate appearances last season, which is actually above-average production for a catcher, but it’s tough to live with his defense at this point. He threw out a measly 14 percent of steal attempts last season.

MLB executive: Bruce Maxwell’s kneeling may keep him from finding work, not his arrest

Rick Yeatts/Getty Images
27 Comments

In September 2017, former Athletics catcher Bruce Maxwell became the first major league player to kneel during the national anthem, joining the handfuls of NFL players who had been doing the same to protest police brutality and racial inequality. Maxwell’s effort was laudable, but he got into trouble a month later when he was arrested for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and disorderly conduct. Maxwell allegedly pointed a gun at a food delivery person.

Maxwell, 27, played sparingly for the Athletics in 2018 and then was designated for assignment at the beginning of September. He officially became a free agent on November 2 and has had trouble finding work in the month-plus since.

Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that Maxwell fired his agent, Matt Sosnick on Thursday because he’s still jobless. According to an unnamed MLB executive Slusser spoke to, “It’s the kneeling thing that might keep him from getting another job, not the arrest. Owners aren’t going to want to deal with that whole anthem issue.”

That makes a lot of since since abusive players haven’t had too much trouble finding new work otherwise. Addison Russell, Jeurys Familia, and José Reyes, among others have either stayed with their teams or quickly found new work. Given the relatively weak catching market, had Maxwell only had the assault charge, there is no doubt he would have been signed to be a backup catcher somewhere.

In the NFL, Colin Kaepernick — who popularized kneeling during the anthem — has remained unsigned even though teams have opted to sign and start clearly inferior quarterbacks like Mark Sanchez, Josh McCown, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jay Cutler, Matt Barkley, and Sam Bradford, among many others. Team owners tend to run conservative in terms of politics, so they may not like the protest to begin with, then there is the public blowback to signing such a player as those who dislike such protesting make up a slight majority in the U.S., according to various polls including one done by the Washington Post.

It’s worth noting that Maxwell has a career .240/.314/.347 triple-slash line in 412 plate appearances. We’re not talking about J.T. Realmuto or Buster Posey here. That being said, there have been 15 other catchers to have put up a lower aggregate OPS since 2016 (min. 400 PA). One of those players, Derek Norris (.600 OPS since 2016), signed a minor league contract with the Tigers just three months after being suspended by Major League Baseball for violating its domestic violence policy. Makes you think.