Last week, I expressed my skepticism of the rumors that the Red Sox are interested in Mark Teixeira. But there continue to be rumors about the Red Sox heavily pursuing the free agent switch hitter. It's quite possible that these rumors are being circulated with the purpose of driving up Teixeira's price for other teams e.g. the Yankees.
At first glance, the Red Sox offense doesn't appear to need much improvement. They scored the third most runs in baseball last year (845) with significant injuries to David Ortiz, Mike Lowell and J.D. Drew. Compare this to their team ERA of 4.01, which ranked 9th in baseball. But this ignores the hitting friendly environment of Fenway Park, where the Red Sox played half of their games.
While Fenway Park was one of the worst home run hitting parks in baseball for the third year in a row, it was the 5th easiest park in which to score a run last year. It was 7.7% easier to score a run in Fenway Park last year than it was in an offensively neutral park, mostly because it was by far the most double friendly park in the majors (58.9% easier to hit a double than an offensively neutral ballpark). The Red Sox scored an incredible 77 more runs at home than they did on the road. Among all major league teams last year, that was the second most extreme difference in home and away runs scored.
A quick look at OPS+ vs. ERA+ confirms that the Red Sox greatest need is offense. Considering park factor, the Red Sox were 8 points above league average in OPS+ and 14 points above average in ERA+. So it makes sense that they'd be interested in the greatest hitter on the free agent market. Teixeira has averaged an OPS+ of 151 the last four seasons. Think Manny Ramirez in 2004 when he hit 43 home runs and drove in 130 runs with the benefit of Fenway Park and a good Red Sox lineup. And you know Teixeira's .400+ OBP the last two years and gold glove defense are giving Epstein a baseball boner.
Once the Red Sox attempt to replace Manny's spot in the order, placing Teixeira in the middle of a lineup which already includes David Ortiz, Kevin Youkilis, Jason Bay and J.D. Drew, they will turn to their catcher situation. The Red Sox have three options here. They could resign Jason Varitek and stand pat. They could trade a pitcher (Masterson, Buccholz, Bowden) to Texas for Jarrod Saltalamacchia or Gerald Laird. Or the Red Sox could attempt to trade Mike Lowell for Diamondbacks catcher Miguel Montero who is struggling to get playing time behind Chris Snyder.
Of the three catchers, Gerald Laird is by far the best defensive catcher. He also has a live arm, throwing out 37.8% of baserunners over his career. But he also has the least upside with the bat where he's inconsistent and over aggresive. Jarrod Saltalamacchia has the greatest offensive upside, hitting .274/.370/.455 in 1401 minor league at bats since coming out of high school. At the major league level, he's hit .261/.327/.399 and is still only 23 years old. Montero would provide a backup option, should the Red Sox not sign Varitek or be able to trade for a Texas catcher.