It was a surprising move, but the Red Sox catcher juggling was the correct move.
This one hurt. The Blake Swihart DFA came out of the blue, just like Hanley Ramirez from a season ago. Unlike the initial shockwave of reactions, it appears that this was the right move for the Red Sox.
It’s hard for fans to accept that Swihart is a bust, a former first round pick who has just been traded for a player who posted a .678 OPS in Single A last year. From the second he got drafted in 2011, we cheered, thinking of the Red Sox catcher who could do it all. In our minds, we saw a catcher who could run fast, hit the long ball, and hit for average as well. We envisioned the .280 average, the 25 homers, and the 15 steals, all from behind the plate. He was supposed to be the fourth Killer B, the dynamic player that was featured on all of the highlight reels, and the perennial all-star. It’s understandable that many Red Sox fans can’t let those dreams go.
Untapped potential is just that; however at 27 years old, Swihart has never consistently hit well, the skill that is his supposed forte. It is very rare for a player at this age — at the age where he is supposed to be entering his prime — to suddenly break out. Even J. D. Martinez, the ultimate late-bloomer, had his breakout season at age 26. Furthermore, he is a liability behind the plate, having never posted a positive defensive WAR in a season. On a roster with two other catchers whose defensive abilities could help steady a struggling pitching staff, there was merely no spot for Swihart.
Roles are Established
In nine games, Sandy Leon hasn’t set the Catcher ERA world on fire, posting a 4.43 ERA thus far. While it may not seem terribly impressive, Swihart had posted a 6.17 through eight games. What has happened with the addition of Leon is the clear separation of Christian Vazquez being the primary catcher, and Leon as the defensive security blanket and Chris Sale‘s personal catcher. Rather than a three-headed competition, there are concrete roles in place and a plan to allow for long-term success.
Additionally, the move has allowed for Christian Vazquez to continue to get the majority of plate appearances and capitalize on offensive improvement. Through 29 games, Vazquez has essentially surpassed his 2018 totals.
.207 / 3 HR / 16 RBI / .540 OPS
.278 / 5 HR / 14 RBI / .822 OPS
While it was a tough realization for Red Sox supporters, Swihart got the ultimate opportunity of reuniting with former bench coach, Torey Lovullo. He’ll have an opportunity to earn playing time in Arizona and carve out a role as a super utility player.
As they say, breaking up is hard to do, but the Red Sox made the correct decision for the current state of the ball club.