Since the end of the season, the Red Sox have publicly identified first base, outfield and pitching as their primary positional needs.
But Saturday, in their first personnel move of the off-season, the Red Sox added to a position they weren't necessarily in the market for: catching.
The Sox signed David Ross to a two-year, 6.2 million deal, according to a source. FoxSports.com was the first to report the signing.
Ross, 35, is a veteran of 11 major league seasons, having spent the last four years with the Atlanta Braves. In 2012, he hit .256 with nine homers and 23 RBI, serving as the backup to All-Star Brian McCann. With McCann battling shoulder issues in the second half of the season, Ross was the Braves' starting catcher in the National League wild card game.
This marks Ross's second stay with the Red Sox. A late-season acquisition in 2008, he played in eight games that year before signing with Atlanta in the off-season.
On the surface, the move appears curious, since the Red Sox have two catchers under control: Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Ryan Lavarnway.
But adding Ross gives the Red Sox a number of options:
It frees them to trade Saltalamacchia at a time when the catching market is thin.
As many as a half-dozen teams -- including Texas, Seattle, Pittsburgh, Washington, Tampa Bay and the New York Mets -- are in the market for a starting catcher, or catching help.
The Mets, in particular, would seem to be a good matchup for the Sox. They need a catcher and have a number of players in whom the Sox are interested including first baseman Ike David, outfielderfirst baseman Lucas Duda and infielderoutfielder Daniel Murphy.
The Sox would love to pursue lefty Jon Niese, but the Mets' asking price would include far more than Satlalamacchia, and more than the Sox would want to sacrifice.
It allows the Sox to platoon Saltalamacchia and Ross, with Lavarnway optioned to Pawtucket for more development time.
Like Kelly Shoppach, Ross would seem a good fit for Fenway, with good pull power to take avantage of the ballparks' dimensions.
Curiously, Ross has actually performed slightly better against righties (.771 career OPS) than he has against lefties (.764). Last season, the difference was even more pronounced: .818 against righties and .712 against lefties.
It leaves open the possibility that the Sox could shift Saltalamacchia to first base while using a catching tandem of Ross and Lavarnway.
According to a baseball source, however, that scenario is the least likely of the three.
The Sox were also attracted to the veteran's makeup and leadership skills. Ross also comes with a reputation for being one of best receivers in "framing'' pitches to help his pitchers expand the strike zone.
Ross also control the running game exceptionally well, having thrown out 39 percent of baserunners over his career. Last year, he gunned down 15-of-34 would-be base stealers for a 44 percent success rate. As recently as 2009, he threw out 48 percent of all baserunners attempting to run on him.