After being drafted in the first round by the Atlanta Braves in 2003, Jarrod Saltalamacchia's path to the majors was obstructed by fellow catcher Brian McCann.

Now, in the ultimate irony, McCann could replace Saltalamacchia with the Red Sox.

If the Sox decide to move on from Saltalamacchia behind the plate -- and it sure seems as though they're leaning in that direction -- they could make a strong bid for McCann, the top catcher on the free agent market. And while McCann figures to draw interest from several teams, including the New York Yankees, his agent told the Herald that the 29-year-old is "fascinated" by the opportunity to play for the Red Sox.

"Certainly Boston is a city that Brian likes, and he has always respected the organization and the front office," said B.B. Abbott, managing partner at Jet Sports Management. "Obviously, the coaching staff and clubhouse unity is attractive. He has also always been fascinated with the fan base, their support of the Red Sox and the history of the organization. Boston would certainly be a place that would be a consideration for Brian."

Abbott stopped short, however, of saying whether the Red Sox have called to express interest in McCann.

The Sox declined to make a $14.1 million qualifying offer to Saltalamacchia before yesterday's 5 p.m. deadline. And although they still are free to negotiate with him, it also signals a hesitancy to make a commitment, especially after he was benched for the final three games of the World Series in favor of backup David Ross. It also should be noted that Ross and McCann are former teammates with the Braves and close friends.

Over the past three seasons, Saltalamacchia batted .244 and slugged .457 with a .306 on-base percentage, 80 doubles, 55 homers and 180 RBI, numbers that comparable to McCann, who batted .252 and slugged .441 with a .329 on-base percentage, 46 doubles, 64 homers and 195 RBI. But Saltalamacchia strikes out far more often (397, compared to McCann's 231) and isn't as proficient behind the plate.