Laird trade impacts pursuit of Varitek
Sox less likely to deal with Rangers; market for catcher shrinks
LAS VEGAS -- Not long after Jason Varitek declined arbitration on Sunday night, the Rangers and Tigers completed a trade that could have an impact on both Varitek and the Boston Red Sox.
Catcher Gerald Laird is heading to Detroit in exchange for two pitching prospects in a deal officially announced as the Winter Meetings got under way at the Bellagio hotel in Las Vegas.
The Rangers, viewed as one of Boston's top potential trade partners for a catcher, will likely be more reluctant to deal Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Taylor Teagarden or Max Ramirez now that Laird has been moved.
Of course, the Rangers would likely change their stance if the Red Sox were willing to include ultra-talented righty Clay Buchholz in the package, but it doesn't appear Boston has any interest in doing so.
And while no real market has emerged yet for Varitek, the Tigers might have been a potential suitor if things hadn't come together on the Laird deal.
Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski confirmed Monday that his interest in Varitek greatly diminished once the Red Sox offered him arbitration, and that is when things seemed to go full speed ahead on Laird.
"He was one of the names that we looked at, being a free agent," Dombrowski said of Varitek. "We looked at the situation for us, and once he was offered arbitration, I think that probably put a big dent in any pursuit we would have had at that point, given the situation where we would have had to give away a high-ranking Draft choice for us next year that would be a No. 2 pick. ... I will say we did like Laird a great deal."
Dombrowski's philosophy demonstrated why some baseball insiders felt that Varitek would accept arbitration from the Red Sox. Considering Varitek had the worst season of his career offensively in 2008 (.220 average, 13 homers, 43 RBIs), arbitration might have been his best chance at coming close to the $10 million per season he earned in his last contract.
By declining arbitration, Varitek -- who turns 37 in April -- made it clear he is still looking for a multi-year contract, be it with the Red Sox or another team.
Meanwhile, the Red Sox will continue to forge ahead on multiple fronts -- trying to retain Varitek and acquire another catcher who would either be mentored under the captain or become his successor if he doesn't re-sign.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.