Red Sox: Christian Vazquez to the DL. What can the team do next?
By Damian Dydyn
The Red Sox lost starting catcher Christian Vazquez to the DL with a broken pinkie finger on his throwing hand Saturday. Here’s how they’ll be impacted.
Christian Vazquez came out of the game last night after the 7th inning with the Red Sox up 8-4. While the move was a little odd, it wasn’t immediately obvious that something serious was wrong with the team’s starting catcher. Unfortunately, he was pulled because he broke his pinkie sliding into second base on a steal in the top of the 7th. As of this morning it wasn’t clear just how long he’ll be on the shelf. More details should be available in the coming days.
In the meantime, the team will need to figure out how to move forward. Whether the injury will require a few weeks or something more long term to heal, the Red Sox need to replace Vazquez on the field. If the injury is short term, Blake Swihart will almost certainly be the answer. Though the team was likely looking for a way to move him after the Steve Pearce trade, this likely extends his time in Boston. At least for a little while. If the injury is something more serious, however, a decision will still need to be made.
The internal option: Blake Swihart.
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Whatever the long term prognosis, former top catching prospect Blake Swihart will finally get his chance to get behind the plate regularly. They may eventually have to make a trade to replace him. But with about three weeks left before the trade deadline, they have time to give him a real shot at regular playing time before doing so. This has the additional benefit of building up some trade value should he be good, but not good enough to turn down an offer for a real upgrade.
The best possible outcome, regardless of the required healing time for Christian Vazquez, is for Blake to rake. If he can give the team a glimpse of the 23-year-old kid who had a 121 wRC+, 4 HR and 9 2B in 42 games between July and the end of the end of the season in 2015, it gives them some options. Should Vazquez be out long term, that kind of production would cover the loss just fine. If not, he becomes a trade chip or a viable bench bat. Unfortunately, Swihart has a 25 wRC+ in 41 games this season. So that promising future stud may be long gone.
The external option: The trade market.
This option is complicated by a number of factors. We know the team is already looking for bullpen help. They also may need some additional depth at second base, despite the acquisition of Brandon Philips. If Dustin Pedroia isn’t going to make it back any time soon, the team is weakened by not having Brock Holt available to bounce around the diamond. Even more so if they decide to start Eduardo Nunez regularly. Of course, if Swihart doesn’t start hitting, this need would likely trump that of another second baseman. There’s also the final level of penalties under the CBA for going past the $237M threshold, which impacts next year’s draft. But there was already an argument for going past that, and this likely bolsters that argument.
The first name that comes to mind is J.T. Realmuto. Realmuto’s name was floated around in the off season while the Miami Marlins were selling off pieces. The cost would be steep, and the Red Sox could be outbid by a number of other clubs. But if he could be had, it would leave them stronger than they were with Vazquez as the starter. Realmuto has a 144 wRC+ and 12 HR this season despite hitting in a weak lineup. Devin Mesoraco could be targeted in a multi-player trade with the Mets that also bolsters the pen. Maybe Mesoraco and Jeurys Familia? And perhaps Wilson Ramos is an option. Though an intra-division trade is likely a long shot.
In the short term it’ll be wait and see.
Whatever they end up doing, Swihart will get a chance to prove his worth over the next week or two. Thankfully, Sandy Leon has been hot. So this won’t be compounded by the other half of the catching tandem being a complete black hole at the plate. If a trade is to materialize, it will take time to work it out. And it doesn’t benefit the Red Sox to rush into it. That said, there’s a reasonable hope that with regular at bats, Swihart could start hitting again. It’s really tough to succeed against major league pitching. Never mind when you are seeing live game action so infrequently.
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What do you think the Red Sox should do? Is wait and see the right approach? Any other catchers you might target on the trade market? Let us know in the comments!