A rundown of the Red Sox catching depth shows Christian Vazquez, Sandy Leon, and Blake Swihart. Guess who makes well over 50% of the money? That’s right, Christian Vazquez.
Blake Swihart Moving Up
There’s news that Blake Swihart will be brought to camp with the intention of keeping him at catcher in 2019. This may seem innocuous. But then there was Alex Cora saying he wasn’t fair to Blake Swihart in 2018. These smoke signals seem to be pointing to Swihart getting a lot more time behind the plate in 2019.
Sandy Leon’s Defense
On first blush it could be that the team is looking to move on from Sandy Leon. He was, of course, usurped as the number one catcher in the playoffs by Christian Vazquez. But all throughout the season, there was story after story about how much the pitchers trusted Sandy Leon. In August of 2018, The Globe did a story about Sandy having a 3.01 catchers ERA, which was the best in baseball at the time.
Just because Leon’s batting stats cratered in 2018 (.117 batting average for example), all that defense doesn’t fly out the window.
Which leads us back to Vazquez. It would be one thing if he was making $563K like Swihart, or $1.95 Million like Leon, and on the arbitration train like the two of them. Not only is Christian Vazquez making $2.85 Million this year, but he’s also owed an additional $10.45 Million over 2020 and 2021. That is because the Red Sox gave him a 3-year deal that starts in 2019.
In his admittedly sparse 4-year major league career, Blake Swihart has batted .256 with a .678 OPS. For comparison, Vazquez hit .207/.540 this year and .240/.632 in his career. Vazquez did hit .290 last year, but it took Leon’s offense disappearing in 2018 for Vazquez to get his chance again.
So Christian Vazquez has the recent World Series success of the team and a quintessential Yankee Stadium postseason Home Run to burnish his attraction to other clubs. And because the Red Sox have Leon and Swihart, with Swihart’s improved defense (No errors, no passed balls, threw out 5 of 14 base stealers for an excellent 36 percent rate) to boot, Vazquez is an excellent candidate to be traded.
Vazquez won’t bring back a lot on his own. At best the Red Sox could look to bolster their weak farm system with a starting pitcher prospect or two. Or perhaps he could be added to a package to get a higher rated prospect or more.
Removing Vazquez’s escalating salary is almost as important as giving Blake Swihart more time or getting prospects. The Red Sox should sign Nathan Eovaldi, but it will cost. The end of 2019 has Chris Sale and Xander Bogaerts getting to free agency, with JD Martinez likely to opt out as well. Every payroll dollar counts.
A Vazquez trade wouldn’t be a blockbuster, but there are too many positives to trading him to not make sense this offseason.