Red Sox Rumors: Blake Swihart drawing interest from other teams
By Sean Penney
The Boston Red Sox are reportedly receiving calls from teams interested in trading for Blake Swihart but the team isn’t looking to move him.
Blake Swihart‘s role with the Boston Red Sox entering the 2018 season is a bit hazy but the team appears determined to find a spot for him.
Defensive limitations behind the plate pushed the Red Sox to try Swihart at other positions. His athleticism allowed him to adapt fairly well to left field until he injured his ankle in a collision with the wall, ending his 2016 season. It’s been a slow climb back to the big leagues since his recovery from injury. Swihart struggled to hit in the minors last season and made only a brief appearance in the big leagues as a September call-up.
The 25-year old is out of minor league options, presumably ensuring the Red Sox will find room for him on the Opening Day roster. This presents the team with a dilemma – Swihart needs fairly regular plate appearances in order to continue his development but there is no clear path to playing time in Boston.
Despite the lack of an obvious solution, the Red Sox seem intent on keeping Swihart. The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reported that the team has received calls from other teams interested in trading for the former top prospect, only to be told by Dave Dombrowski that they are not looking to move Swihart.
"“[Swihart’s] still part of our plans,” said Dombrowski. “Sometimes you get stuck with players who are out of options. In this case, because of his flexibility, I think we’ve got a little better chance of getting through it.”"
Swihart is versatile enough to serve as a backup at several different positions. He’s similar in that regard to Brock Holt, only he’s capable of handling the catcher position.
But do the Red Sox really need to carry a third catcher? Christian Vazquez‘ emergence last season earned him the opportunity to receive the bulk of the playing time behind the dish. If the team decides not to bring back Sandy Leon, who is arbitration eligible and yet to agree to a 2018 contract, then Swihart could be a backup catcher who sees additional playing time at other positions. For this to happen, Boston would need to be confident that Swihart’s catching skills have improved significantly. It also may be worthwhile to hang on to Leon to be the personal battery mate for Chris Sale given their success working together.
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There’s also the concern that Swihart’s bat won’t profile as well at other positions. His rise as a high-profile prospect was based on his potential to be among the top hitting catchers in baseball. His ceiling isn’t nearly as high if those same numbers come from a corner outfield spot or at first base.
Versatility is a useful trait but Swihart’s value is highest if he regains his swing at the plate and proves capable of handling the defensive responsibilities behind it. If that path isn’t open for him in Boston then the team should consider trading him.
No player is ever truly untouchable so Dombrowski’s comments about not wanting to move Swihart could simply be a sign that he’s not receiving the right offers. Could this merely be a smokescreen to attempt to raise Swihart’s trade value? If other teams believe the Red Sox will be forced to trade Swihart because they don’t have room for him on the 25-man roster and can’t send him back to Triple-A Pawtucket then naturally they will try to low-ball Dombrowski.
There is still untapped potential in Swihart waiting to be released but he needs a semblance of consistency if he’s ever going to reach it. With no clear path to regular at-bats, he’s better off being shipped to another team that can offer an everyday role. A team that isn’t quite ready to contend and can afford to let Swihart develop at the big league level would be ideal.
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Dombrowski certainly won’t give Swihart away. Despite his struggles the last two years, he still has value. He may not be openly shopping Swihart but that doesn’t mean he won’t continue to listen. If the right offer comes along, Dealin’ Dave will be quick to pull the trigger.