A number of teams have reportedly expressed interest in acquiring veteran catcher Ryan Hanigan, but the Boston Red Sox may be hesitant to let him go.
Good catchers are hard to find, unless of course you are the Boston Red Sox.
The Red Sox are in an enviable spot with their impressive depth behind the dish, led by the young duo of Blake Swihart and Christian Vazquez. Other teams around the league have noticed Boston’s stacked catching depth chart and may come calling if they find themselves in need of an upgrade at the position.
The Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo reports that according to an NL executive, a few teams have recognized veteran catcher Ryan Hanigan as a potential trade target. With the Red Sox unlikely to carry three catchers on the roster for any significant time, inevitably something may have to give.
Teams may inquire about one of the two young catchers, but the asking price that the Red Sox would demand is bound to be staggering. Hanigan would take much less to pry away, making him an ideal target for teams looking to plug a short-term hole. The 35-year old will earn an affordable $3.70 million this season, with a $3.75 million team option for 2017.
Hanigan doesn’t offer much offensively at this stage of his career, but he’s solid defensively behind the plate and is known for his game-calling ability. As Cafardo puts it, Hanigan has become a “Mr. Fix-It” for pitchers, which should entice any team with a young pitching staff that would benefit from his experience.
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As much as the Red Sox could benefit from a trade that resolves the logjam at the position, they are also likely to be hesitant to give up Hanigan for the same reasons other teams have shown interest. Boston’s rotation has a number of pitchers that are either young or attempting to bounce back from a down season, all of whom would benefit from the savvy experience of a grizzled veteran as their battery mate. As bright as the future looks for Swihart and Vazquez, the Red Sox may not be ready to turn over the pitching staff to them without a veteran presence to lean on. Having Hanigan around is not only helpful to the pitching staff, but also to the development of their young catchers.
Boston also can’t afford to part with Hanigan until they are assured that Vazquez is fully recovered from Tommy John surgery that cost him the entire 2015 season. The 25-year old will make his first start of the spring behind the plate on Tuesday, marking an important step on his path back to the big leagues. Even if he proves that his rocket arm is back to pre-injury form, the Red Sox are likely to be cautious with him by starting him in Pawtucket this season.
Being healthy is one thing, but Vazquez also needs to see some at-bats to find his swing again after missing a full season. His bat has never been a strong part of his game to begin with, but the Red Sox need to be confident that it’s not a liability before bringing him back to the majors. We’ve seen from the way they have handled Jackie Bradley‘s career that no matter how gifted the player is defensively, the Red Sox patience will eventually wear thin if they can’t produce at the plate.
Assuming that Vazquez will open the season in Triple-A, the Red Sox need to hang on to Hanigan for now. Yet it’s only a matter of time before Vazquez’s elite pitch framing talents and golden arm force the Red Sox to call him up, leaving the roster crowded if their trio of catchers are all healthy.
With Swihart on his way to developing into an All-Star caliber hitter at the position and Vazquez inching closer to a return, Hanigan’s time in Boston may be running out. He’ll almost certainly break camp with the Red Sox when the season opens next month, but don’t rule out a mid-season trade if the Red Sox deem their pair of promising young catchers ready to take over.