This year more than ever it seems like the Red Sox have an excess of talent at the catcher position.
Christian Vazquez, Sandy Leon, and Blake Swihart have been fighting for the top two positions for quite a while now, even though the issue has been on the back-burner. However, a move is long overdue, and it is now a question of who will be moved and for what? The obvious answer is help for the bullpen.
The Red Sox have enough talent at the minors in the infield and outfield so taking a prospect for those positions really doesn’t make sense. Though, I believe what Dave Dombrowski is doing is the smart thing. He is waiting until the season starts to see what this team really needs. Again, the bullpen is the biggest question right now but what if Ryan Brasier comes out and dominates? What about Jenrry Mejia? Matt Barnes? Point being, the Red Sox actually might be ok in the bullpen with the guys we have now, and a bigger need might arise later in the season. If that time does come, who would be going? Let’s dive into some statistics.
First off, I am extremely saddened to hear about his brother passing. I know he must be going through a tough time right now and I hope he finds comfort with his family, teammates, and just playing the game he loves at this time.
Blake has been involved in a number of trade rumors here in the past couple years. He is 26 years old, very versatile, a bit streaky with the bat, and was once a top prospect in the farm system. I believe he has stayed on the roster for so long because he can play multiple positions (catcher, first base, and outfield) and when he is / was not in the majors, he rakes! Since 2012 he is batting an average of .267 in the minors. He even does considerably well in spring training, which in the ends helps keeps that “He has the potential” narrative around.
From what I have seen and read throughout the league he is a decent catcher, plays well defensively and I have never heard anything negative about the way he calls games. He is a great clubhouse guy and truly just wants to succeed.
What I love about Christian Vazquez is how hard he works. You can see it every time he is out on the field, up to bat, whatever, the man is out there to compete. While his bat may fall short throughout the year, I believe he makes up for it with his defensive abilities. Leading all three of the Red Sox catchers, Vazquez has a lifetime average of 42% in catching stealers (runners) and has 8 career pickoffs.
Another positive for Vazquez is his experience. He has been to two World Series and has played in at least 50 games every season since 2014. One thing to consider is his current contract. Last year, he made 1.4m, this year he is making 2.8m, not too bad considering everything he does for the Red Sox. But here is where things get cranky, he is due 4.2m in 2020, 6.2m in 2021, and a whooping 7m in 2020.
Unless he drastically increasing his batting ability, which is possible, I am not too sure he is going be worth that much.
To me, Sandy is most known for his ability to call a game specific to the pitcher. There has been numerous reports detailing how well Sandy prepares and understands his pitcher. Chris Sale is an amazing pitcher, but it is not luck of the draw that he almost always pitches to Sandy. Like Vazquez, he is a pretty good defensive catcher, struggles at the plate. Most recently in 2018, he was batting only a .177, which was a huge decrease from 2016/2017 (.310 and .225) where he played virtually the same amount of time.
He is also the oldest of the three, making his trade value a bit less. My belief is that Sandy is the safest of all three due to the facts listed above. He has a role he plays on this team, and does it very well and I find it hard to believe that the Red Sox would be willing to give that up
My conclusion, and that of many others, is that Mr. Blake Swihart will be the odd man out. This because he is the youngest, most versatile, and still has the “potential”. It will be a hard day to see him leave because I felt at one point, with the majority of Red Sox fans, viewed him as the future and as an elite catcher who can actually hit. If he is the one to go, the Red Sox are still left in good hands with Vasquez and Leon who know their position on the team and gets the job done. I always try and tell myself, it is a good problem to have when you have too many guys compared to not enough.
To make matters more interesting, the Kansas City Royals will likely be in the market for a catcher after the injury to Salvador Perez – we’ll see if they give Dave Dombrowski a call.
Speaking of catchers.. who caught the Red Sox using the pool noodles to improve the concentration of their catchers? Don’t you just hate it when a pool noodle flies onto the field and disrupts the players?