With the Red Sox President of Baseball Operations, Dave Dombrowski, making it known in mid-January that the club doesn’t plan on having all three catchers on their roster by Opening Day, it’s time to speculate who does and who doesn’t land a roster spot by March 28th.
Last season and into the playoffs, the team carried three catchers. Sandy Leon, Christian Vazquez and the one with the most puzzling career thus far, Blake Swihart.
While it clearly worked out, carrying three catchers on one team certainly isn’t ideal, even if one could be seen more as a utility man.
The problem is, all three of their options are legit, major league caliber players and all have their own upside.
Christian Vazquez was one of the more hyped up players coming through the farm system. He’s been very solid over his, let’s call it, three and a half seasons with the club. His bat’s never really been, well, great, but defensively, although there were periods of struggle, he’s been top quality.
Then there’s Sandy Leon. Leon’s top quality certainly might be the trust that the core starting pitchers have proven to have with the veteran catcher. Prior to Alex Cora’s arrival, former Red Sox manager, John Farrell, unofficially allowed “personal catchers” to each starting pitcher and Rick Porcello, who won the Cy Young in 2016, and Chris Sale both preferred Leon behind the dish. His defensive skills are elite and his game management is outstanding, but aside from one monstrous stretch in 2016, his bat has always been subpar to put it lightly.
And then there’s Blake Swihart who has shown spurts of solid defensive prowess and game-calling ability but has been underwhelming through his time in the majors. You could say that his mediocrity isn’t truly all his fault as he’s been blocked at the major league level essentially since coming up from the minors, therefore, hindering his chance to develop. Regardless, offensively he has been average at best and the same goes for his overall defensive efficiency.
When taking a look at what all three catchers have to offer, it becomes clear as to who becomes the odd man out.
The Red Sox showed that they believe in the 28-year-old catcher, Vazquez, with a three-year contract extension prior to the 2018 season. Due to that faith, his improvement behind the plate and proven ability to be a staple in the club’s lineup, don’t plan on seeing his departure any time soon.
Sandy Leon, who is just 29-years-old, holds too much weight with the current starting staff to let walk. Especially if you plan on re-signing Chris Sale–which they’ve made it known that they are–hanging onto Leon and possibly signing him to a cheap extension makes too much sense.
And based on the two aforementioned catchers who not only make too much sense to keep on the roster but are extremely affordable in a time where the team is trying to stay as cheap as they can be, that leaves Blake Swihart on the backburner.
Blake Swihart has been nothing but serviceable through his time with Boston. Prior to the arrival of Andrew Benintendi in 2016, while the Red Sox were in search of an everyday left fielder, Swihart seemed to be somewhat working out with the Green Monster in his shadow. That was until his collision with the wall that runs along the third base line at Fenway Park injured his ankle and ended his season in August of that year.
If the team truly does plan on carrying only two catchers, then Blake Swihart seems to be on his way out the door unless he proves something major this spring.
Could you get something decent in return via trade? I would be shocked if the team got a decent haul for Swihart, but at this point, any sort of viable return is worth it when the league knows that if you don’t make a deal, you’re best bet is probably to just cut him.
The talent seemed to be there but the constant overshadowing by those ahead of him seemed to quiet his potential. After spending so much time in the minor league system with Boston, I don’t plan on seeing Swihart on the Red Sox major league roster by March 28th when the team opens up with Seattle.