BSI’s Samantha Riley recently wrote an article on the budding battle for the Red Sox number one catching slot for 2016. The lines in the sand are being drawn and the camp you are in is clearly designated – Blake Swihart or Christian Vazquez. Media is in full flight on this as one of the supreme question marks of spring training. This is big, folks, and bigger than Dunkin’ Donuts versus Starbucks.
The Red Sox have a pleasant catching conundrum that will surface in spring training of 2016. They will be catcher blessed with two young, contract controllable and talented catchers. Forget about the recent past with Jarrod Saltalamacchia and A.J. Pierzynski botching up duties behind the plate and with some spotty offensive work.
Vazquez made a deep impression on pitchers, fans and especially baserunners in 2014. Called into service, his rifle arm nailed baserunners at a 52% clip and his agility and game calling skills had – as they say in Variety – boffo reviews. That magical arm, however, went to the operating room and Boston ended up with Sandy Leon as backup to a career backup in Ryan Hanigan.
Swihart was putting up impressive Pawtucket numbers when he got a break, or it was Hanigan, who got a break as in his hand. Faster than you can say “rushed rookie” Swihart came into town and hit. In 84 games, Swihart slashed .274/.319/.392 and hit five home runs and had 30 RBI. The CS% was 28 and that is a smidgen below the league 32%.
The debate is centered on bat versus glove. Swihart can hit and Vazquez can catch. But do not dismiss Vazquez as some three pitches and punched out palooka with the bat. Vaz can give you some tough at-bats just as Swihart can give you some quality defensive ability. This is – with no apologies to Adam Smith – the wealth of nations in the nation being Red Sox Nation.
Now to go off the grid with a bit of baseball insanity.
A solution to this ponderous dilemma is to simply trade both. As Peg and Cat would say: “problem solved!” I know that the assumption is my brain pan has sprung a Niagara type leak and you may be correct. No argument with that. The smart money is to keep both and figure it out as the season goes forward. But I never was accused of being overly smart nor logical.
So who is the catcher? Step right up former All-Star Matt Wieters, the 30-year-old switch-hitting catcher who was supposed to be on the fast track to that shrine in Cooperstown. What happened was what happened to Vazquez and Wieters is just now returning to form or until this next injury will surface. The O’s, however, have placed a qualifying offer on the table and that will be rejected – hence a draft selection for the O’s.
A two-time Gold Glove Award winner and a three-time All-Star the 2015 stat line showed some return to prominence. Wieters slashed .276/.319/.422 with eight home runs and 25 RBI in 75 games. Defensively the CS% was at 31, so Wieters is starting to pick-up where he was in 2013.
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Since I continue to dig this hole let us look at the dollars. Catchers are a premium and catchers represented by Scott Boras just may add-on to that premium. Wieters will expect a nice long-term deal and that certainly flies into the face of the cheap options Vazquez and Swihart represent. So in the money department it is no contest. Stay as far away from Wieters as one would from vegetables at a third world marketplace.
In the talent area, a healthy Wieters combines the best of both the Red Sox young catchers in his defensive ability and hitting ability. Of course the upside, especially for Swihart, could be a distinct advantage to not signing Wieters. The other side is where the positive comes into play – the deal.
Young, controllable and talented and that means high-end trade value. The Red Sox could net a considerable return on any package that contains Swihart and Vaz. Would that even be worth it? That would be for DD to contemplate.
So that is it for examining one solution to squash the catcher debate and have me stick with contemplation of Mary Ann or Ginger – a far more entertaining debate. Or just maybe the free agent merry-go-round does need the occasional silly perspective? Now I can return to the backward and get my medications from Nurse Ratched.