It’s May. In baseball, that’s very early to start hearing rumors on massive trade deals. However, with the Boston Red Sox severely struggling on offense, as of late, some experts believe that calling up outfielder Rusney Castillo from Triple-A Pawtucket may not be enough. One expert, in particular, believes that a trade for Oakland Athletics catcher Stephen Vogt would make a huge difference.
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Buster Olney of ESPN recently did an interview with WEEI.com, where he discussed his thoughts on a deal for Vogt. Judy Cohen covered Olney’s comments in a follow-up blog. Olney said that Vogt would be “’a tremendous stopgap as [the Red Sox] wait for Blake Swihart to develop more, as they wait for Christian Vazquez to come back.’ He pointed out that the Tommy John surgery Vazquez underwent may be more complicated for catchers to recover from than it is for pitchers, noting that he could be miss time not only this year but next year as well. And while Vogt may not be the A’s go-to trade chip at the moment, Olney said that Oakland should realize he’s a hot commodity. With the Sox’ prospect pool, Boston could provide the A’s with some depth if they work at getting Oakland to move.”
May 14, 2015; Seattle, WA, USA; Boston Red Sox catcher Blake Swihart (23) at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
As far as Swihart’s current development, Olney stated,”When you talk with scouts with other teams who are watching Swihart, they’re saying to me they think he’s struggling with the learning curve, which is not, for catchers, that’s not unusual.” In 13 games, this season, Swihart has hit .170, with 3 RBIs, a walk, and 17 strikeouts. His power has been clocked at a .234 slugging percentage. Not unusual for a rookie being promoted quickly, as both Vazquez and backup catcher Ryan Hanigan, who required surgery for a broken finger, were on the disabled list, early.
The biggest issue that Swihart has is the pitchers under his watch. With a starting rotation that was already suspect before the season started, throwing in a young catcher to be in charge of helping them through the summer is a tough task. Some of the veterans have had to listen to a prospect-turned-starter tell them where to locate their pitches and try to relax. How would you like it if the ‘new guy’ at work started telling you how to do your job? It’s nobody’s fault; it’s just human nature that the situation makes for awkward moments and little help coming from the backstop in pressure situations.
This difficulty is where Vogt comes into the discussion.
The Athletics are sitting in last place in the American League West division, looking like they can’t even open the cellar door, let alone leaving it. One of the only bright spots has been Vogt, who has hit .307, with 9 home runs and 30 RBIs, in 39 games. The 30-year-old from Visalia, California is signed through 2015, with the earliest time for arbitration being in 2017, and he cannot be a free agent until 2020. Considering that Vogt is only making just over $500 000 this season, his pay should go up, but it wouldn’t be anything that the Red Sox brass couldn’t handle in the future. The veteran also has much more experience handling MLB starting pitchers than Swihart, giving the Red Sox another coach on the field to provide assistance. If Vazquez returns, Vogt could help as a good hitter, if David Ortiz possibly retires or players like Mike Napoli can’t contribute at the plate any longer. If Vazquez doesn’t return healthy enough to return to his prior form, Vogt just would continue his solid play at the position, a win-win for the Red Sox.
With all of the young prospects that the Red Sox have in their stables, Athletics general manager Billy Beane may not be drooling yet, but there is no reason why he wouldn’t be. Many talented players with low salaries, just primed and ready for a trade to be made.
Mar 24, 2015; Jupiter, FL, USA; Boston Red Sox center fielder Rusney Castillo (38) at Roger Dean Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
One player who won’t be on that list, however, is Rusney Castillo. “Olney said he’s hearing that the outfielder eventually will be promoted because of how well he’s playing, that he’s earned it.” If that’s the case, anybody can do the math: only three outfielders can start; Hanley Ramirez has been paid a huge amount of money to play left field; Mookie Betts has been making highlight-reel plays in the field, although his bat could be better; Castillo’s efforts and future salaries of $60.4 million have earned him a spot. That’s three players, leaving current starting right fielder Shane Victorino out of the equation.
Victorino just came off of the disabled list, recently, earning eight hits in his last seven games, but it could be too little, too late. Not to say that it is entirely his fault, as the whole team has been suffering to score runs. The Red Sox are dead last in the American League in scoring runs, with only 14 to their credit in the last seven days. However, if Betts is not going to be moved, then why would Boston keep Victorino, a 13 million-dollar asset, sitting on the bench? The veteran will want to play, as well, whether it be Boston or another team. It only makes sense, as the Red Sox have a ton of outfielders, that Castillo’s call-up would precede a trade for Victorino. If you are not going to play him, why are you keeping him?
Victorino’s salary would likely keep him from being included in a trade for Vogt, as the Athletics already have outfielders and are losing too many games to justify another big contract. If Olney is right, then the Red Sox should be making plans for a splash in the trading pool, before or after the All-Star Break. Maybe neither move is made, but the logic in both moves is surely there.
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