Red Sox could use versatile Blake Swihart at second base

NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 30: Blake Swihart
NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 30: Blake Swihart /

The Boston Red Sox may consider using Blake Swihart at second base next season, providing another short-term solution with Dustin Pedroia sidelined.

The Boston Red Sox have long been enamored with the potential of Blake Swihart‘s bat. The only problem has been finding a place for him on the field.

Swihart was once the top catching prospect in the system. He was the Opening Day starter behind the plate in 2016, only for his defensive inadequacies to quickly send him packing back to Triple-A Pawtucket. The Red Sox brought him back about six weeks later following a crash course in learning left field, which went relatively smoothly until a collision with a wall resulted in a severely sprained ankle that ended his season.

The organization seems torn on how to utilize Swihart. His value is clearly highest as a catcher yet the front office doesn’t seem sold on his ability to handle the position defensively. He spent most of 2017 catching in the minor leagues, while also making several appearances at first base and designated hitter. He received a September call-up to Boston, where he appeared in six games. Four of those appearances were as a defensive replacement at catcher but he never started a game at the position for the Red Sox this year.

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With Christian Vazquez coming off a breakout season at the plate to secure his role as the primary catcher and Sandy Leon‘s defensive skills making him well suited for the backup role, there may not be room for Swihart to stick as a catcher on this roster. He’s out of minor league options, meaning the Red Sox have to put him on their Opening Day roster or they’ll risk losing him. That makes it essential for the team to find a viable reason for using a roster spot on Swihart.

One way they could do that is by moving him to second base. Peter Gammons reported on that some Red Sox officials want to see if Swihart can make the transition to second, which would allow him to serve as a temporary solution while Dustin Pedroia recovers from knee surgery.

"“I’ll play anywhere they need or want me,” said Swihart, via “I’m planning to work at my catching, at first, second, third and the outfield until I get to spring training.”"

If Swihart proves to be a viable solution at second base then it could have a trickle-down effect on the rest of the roster. It would seem less likely that free agent Eduardo Nunez would be re-signed if they plan on using Swihart as a utility infielder who can cover for the absence of Pedroia during the first couple months of the season.

The Red Sox remain high on Marco Hernandez, who could compete with Swihart for playing time at second base early in the season. If both players are on the roster, it leaves us to wonder if there is room for Brock Holt to continue in his super-utility role. He’s projected to earn $2 million in arbitration and the Red Sox may not deem it worthwhile to pay Holt that salary in the wake of a disappointing season derailed by concussion symptoms and vertigo.

Swihart spent three weeks playing in the Dominican Winter League before returning to prepare for his upcoming wedding. He hit .407/.515/481 during his brief stint in the Dominican while seeing time at catcher, first base, and DH. He returned home claiming he “felt the best I’ve felt in two years.”

It’s great to hear that he’s feeling back to normal after a long recovery from the ankle injury and his production at the plate during his time in the Dominican is promising. Now he needs to prove he can carve out a role for himself on next year’s Red Sox team in order to warrant taking up a roster spot.

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Otherwise, his days in the organization may be numbered, but Boston will give him every opportunity to earn his spot.