Red Sox, Padres nearing trade of Middlebrooks, Hanigan


The Red Sox have crossed one more item off their to-do list as they appear to have acquired a backup catcher in Ryan Hanigan, bringing him from San Diego to Boston in exchange for former top prospect Will Middlebrooks.

Hanigan has bounced around quite a bit over the last two years; after spending the first seven years of his career in Cincinnati, he signed a 3 year/$10.75 deal with the Tampa Bay Rays last offseason, spending one year in Tampa Bay. Hanigan was then included in the huge Rays-Padres-Nationals blockbuster headlined by Wil Myers and he spent the next few days as a member of the Padres before being dealt once more to the Red Sox.

However, what Hanigan has lacked in a consistent mailing address, he has made up for with his reliable defensive presence behind the plate. While Hanigan, a career .256/.353/.341 hitter who slashed just .218/.318/.324 in 2014, doesn’t offer much with the bat, he is widely regarded as an excellent defensive catcher. While his caught stealing numbers tailed off a bit last season, as Hanigan only caught 21.1% of base stealers as opposed to a 38.0% career rate, his game-calling and pitch-framing still point to him as among the best defensive catchers in baseball.

Still, with another of the game’s best defensive catchers entering his second season in the major leagues after an impressive rookie season, Hanigan will slot in as Boston’s backup catcher behind Christian Vazquez. Hanigan and Vazquez, for what they lack in the batters’ box, will represent one of baseball’s best defensive tandems behind the plate, which could play a significant role in aiding what is shaping up to be a middle-of-the-road rotation.

Going to San Diego will be Boston’s former top prospect in Will Middlebrooks. After an inspiring rookie season which saw him slash .288/.325/.509 in 75 games in 2012, Middlebrooks has fallen off the wagon over the past two seasons and hit a dismal .191/.256/.265 last season. Middlebrooks still has some upside, with plenty of the right-handed power that’s so hard to find in baseball nowadays, but after signing Pablo Sandoval, the Red Sox did not have a place for Middlebrooks on the active roster.

While it’s tough to give up on somebody with the promise of Middlebrooks, this is a good move for the Red Sox as they acquire a player of need. Hanigan will give the Red Sox an excellent defensive catching tandem, leaving a left-handed reliever and a frontline starter as the only remaining players on Boston’s wish list.