ATLANTA -- Add backup catcher to the Braves' list of offseason needs. David Ross confirmed early on Saturday morning that he has agreed to a two-year deal with the Red Sox.
Ross has essentially doubled his salary with a two-year, $6.2 million contract that is pending the results of a physical.
While the Braves were certainly interested in bringing Ross back for a fifth consecutive season, they were not willing to provide this level of commitment to a backup catcher who will turn 36 in March. Their hope was to re-sign him with a one-year deal.
Once it became apparent another club would be willing to provide Ross the two-year deal he was seeking, the Braves began accelerating their evaluations of the other backup catchers on this year's free-agent market.
Regarded by many as the game's top backup catcher, Ross said that he never gained a sense that the Braves were going to provide him what he was seeking.
With starting catcher Brian McCann likely to miss at least the first two weeks of the 2013 season while recovering from shoulder surgery, the Braves will need to find a backup catcher who they can confidently utilize as a starter during the early portion of the season.
The only catcher that could be deemed Major League ready in the Braves' system is Christian Bethancourt, who could benefit from the opportunity to continue enhancing his offensive skills at the Minor League level. Bethancourt is the Braves' No. 2 ranked prospect, according to MLB.com.
But the Braves would rather give the 21-year-old Bethancourt a chance to spend at least one more season enhancing his still-suspect offensive skills in the Minors.
There is a chance the Braves could give Evan Gattis a chance to spend some time behind the plate while McCann is sidelined. Gattis has established himself as a legitimate power-hitting prospect. His defensive shortcomings as a catcher led the Braves to begin playing him in left field this past summer. But he is capable of handling the catching duties if necessary.
Gerald Laird, Brian Schneider, Rod Barajas, Miguel Olivo, Kelly Shoppach, Ronny Paulino and Matt Treanor are among the other free agent catchers who should draw attention from clubs seeking to add a veteran backup catcher.
Ross hit .269 with 24 homers and a .816 OPS during his four seasons with the Braves. He was one of the most beloved and respected figures within the clubhouse. His leadership skills and ability to handle the pitching staff will be missed.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com.