The Red Sox have one of the most enviable future catching situations of any team in the league between rookie defensive whiz Christian Vazquez and top prospect Blake Swihart. The Red Sox will count on Vazquez as their starting catcher next season, but with Swihart still likely a year away from a full-time gig, they’ll still need to explore options for a temporary backup catcher. Following news that the Detroit Tigers will make catcher Alex Avila available on the trade market, could the Red Sox look to the motor city for a backup catcher and platoon partner for Vazquez?
According to Boston Globe reporter Nick Cafardo, the Red Sox and Braves are both interested in acquiring Avila and it’s not hard to see why the Red Sox are doing their due diligence on Detroit’s backstop.
Once among the more promising catchers in baseball, Avila has fallen off the map a bit in recent seasons. In 124 games this season, Avila slashed .218/.327/.359 with 11 home runs while striking out a career-high 151 times. Those aren’t great numbers by any stretch of the imagination; however, there’s still reason to think that Avila could be a fit for the Red Sox.
First of all, he’s left-handed. Right now, the Red Sox are featuring a lineup in which David Ortiz is the only left-handed hitter likely to start on a regular basis (there’s a good chance they’ll acquire a left-handed hitting third baseman as well, but that’s still only two players), which could make them susceptible to right-handed pitching. Avila hasn’t quite mashed righties in his career, as he sports a career .792 OPS against righties, a number which fell to just .720 in 2014. Still, even if he’s still not a stud against righties, he could still present a problem in terms of late-inning match ups.
Avila also has traditionally exhibited strong defense, a trend which continued in 2014. Complemented by defensive prodigy Christian Vazquez, adding Avila would give the Red Sox one of the best defensive catching tandems in baseball.
Finally, it’s not crazy to think that Avila could genuinely become a better player with a change of scenery. He has been plagued by injuries, particularly concussions, in recent seasons and has shown the negative effects of a heavy workload. Even with Avila around, Christian Vazquez would still serve as the starting catcher, with Avila acting as a spot starter against right-handed pitchers. With a much lighter workload, Avila would be less impacted by the nagging injuries that add up over the course of a season, which might well improve his offensive performance.
As far as backup catchers go, Avila would be one of the most expensive on the market. He is projected to receive $5.4M in arbitration this season, his final year before he reaches free agency, and would also require a bit of a haul in terms of prospects, as he is still the starting catcher for the Tigers. However, if the Red Sox were able to negotiate a lower price for him, he could be one of the best backup catching options in baseball.