Blake Swihart will be the primary catcher this season, but what happens to Ryan Hanigan if Christian Vazquez proves he’s 100 percent by the end of spring?
Max: Hanigan must be kept around, if healthy. The last thing Vazquez needs to do this season is sit on the bench more than he plays, which is what would happen if he ever came up at the same time Swihart was healthy. The best thing for Vazquez is to go to Pawtucket and get more game reps at and behind the plate. His best chance of being called up in 2016 may be a position switch for Swihart.
Drew: Vazquez should start the season in Pawtucket. He needs game seasoning before he plays again in the majors. If he excels there, Hanigan would be a valuable trade piece by mid-season in the last year of his deal.
Samantha: The Red Sox should bring Vazquez along slowly by starting him in Triple-A, at least for the beginning of the 2016 season. Even though it is reported that he will be 100 percent by spring camp, it is never 100 percent certain how players recovering from Tommy John surgery will fair once back and playing in real games that matter. A cautious approach is always the best approach especially if there is not a desperate need for him at the start of the season. Additionally, this would allow the Sox to use Ryan Hanigan as a trade piece mid-season to fill any needs they may have if the team is in post-season contention at that point.
Brandon: Hanigan is a trade candidate, but so is Vazquez. If Vazquez can’t supplant Swihart as the starter, Vazquez’s youth makes him more valuable to trade, as other teams would not have a young solid catcher like him on their team. They would see him as a starter, while Hanigan is a nice starter for a desperate team with absolutely no starting catcher or insurance for a team with one, just like the Red Sox. Hanigan’s career screams backup, much like a great backup goalie or quarterback: you don’t want him to be the starter but you’re not scared to have him fill in from time to time.
Sean: A cautious approach is best in easing Vazquez back into the picture after missing the entire 2015 season. Even if he shows his rocket arm is back to gunning down runners on the base paths, he needs at-bats to get comfortable at the plate again. That’s never been a strong part of his game to begin with, so some more seasoning in Pawtucket wouldn’t hurt as long as the Red Sox are covered at the position at the big league level.
Vazquez’s talent is too great to keep him buried on the organizational depth chart for long, so we’ll see him at some point this year. Perhaps this will make Hanigan expendable in a mid-season trade, but is it out of the question for the Red Sox to carry three catchers? It may be possible as long as Swihart can get some at bats at other positions, while the versatility on the bench from players like Brock Holt and Travis Shaw makes it easier to afford using a roster spot on a third catcher. It’s not an ideal long term solution, but if all three catchers are healthy and they struggle to find a trade partner then it may be an option to consider in order to get Vazquez’s elite defense on the roster.