Dodgers Acquire Ryan Lavarnway Three Years Too Late

I’m pretty sure I really wanted Ryan Lavarnway like three years ago, when he was putting up a combined .290/.376/.563 with 32 homers in his age-22 season at Double- and Triple-A. I imagine if I dug into the archives, you’d find me complaining that the Dodgers got Tim Federowicz from Boston and not Lavarnway.

Now, they have both, since the team has DFA’d Drew Butera in order to claim the 27-year-old Lavarnway, who was himself DFA’d by Boston last week when Pablo Sandoval was signed.

I asked my friend Marc Normandin of SBnation’s Over the Monster what he thought of Lavarnway, and after he realized I was just going to quote his Gchat verbatim, he directed me to this recent post on Lavarnway’s status:

Lavarnway has hit .204/.253/.321 in the majors over 296 plate appearances and parts of four seasons. In 2011, he hit 18 homers for Pawtucket in 61 games after a midseason promotion: in the ensuing 195 games at Triple-A, he’s collected just 14, and batted .280/.372/.396. It’s not bad thanks to that on-base percentage, but you have to remember that it’s not going to translate perfectly to the majors, either, and also that his most recent success in the minors came as a 26-year-old playing primarily first base and designated hitter.

The dream of Lavarnway as a starting catcher is dead, and while he can probably provide solid offense for a backup in that role, the defense just isn’t there, and he’s not going to be much help at other positions offensively. Lavarnway is also out of options, so the Red Sox can’t just stash him at Triple-A again in the hopes that he figures out a way to deal with his lack of bat speed, a problem that big-league pitchers are all too ready and able to exploit. Chances are very good that Lavarnway is with another organization after this winter, and possibly even before rosters need to be set for Rule 5 draft purposes.

Here’s the problem: Lavarnway is routinely considered an atrocious catcher, to the point that I’m not sure he’s even an option there at all. Hell, let’s quote Marc anyway:

He’s really bad behind the plate. He can throw out runners decently enough but the footwork isn’t there, he doesn’t block, can’t frame; he’s a big slow body.

Someone actually asked me if this is setting up Butera for a trade, but no: Butera has zero trade value. All three of these guys are out of options. Apparently, the team prefers both Federowicz and Lavarnway to Butera. I guarantee that at least one of the two ex-Red Sox will be DFA’d before the season — perhaps both.

Really, this says that Butera’s mediocre defense and historically bad offense is less preferable to Lavarnway’s terrible defense and potentially half-decent bat. Another minor upgrade on the fringes, I suppose, maybe.

About Mike Petriello

Mike Petriello
Mike writes about lots of baseball in lots of places, and right now that place is MLB.com.