Red Sox Rumors: Royals could look to trade for a catcher

BOSTON, MA - JUNE 14: Blake Swihart #23 of the Boston Red Sox at bat against the Toronto Blue Jays during the second inning of the game at Fenway Park on June 14, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Winslow Townson/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - JUNE 14: Blake Swihart #23 of the Boston Red Sox at bat against the Toronto Blue Jays during the second inning of the game at Fenway Park on June 14, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Winslow Townson/Getty Images) /

The Boston Red Sox have a surplus of catchers and the Kansas City Royals have a need in the wake of the Salvador Perez injury.

The Boston Red Sox have been quietly shopping their trio of catchers this winter. While they made it work last year, entering another season with three catchers isn’t an ideal use of limited roster space.

Unfortunately, there has been limited interest in the market for Christian Vazquez, Sandy Leon, and Blake Swihart. The two projected to split the lion share of the workload at the position are both defensive-minded catchers coming off dismal seasons at the plate. The third option is a former top prospect who never blossomed and saw his stock take a nosedive when the organization questioned his ability to handle the position by trying him out defensively at other spots on the field. None of them are brimming with trade value at the moment.

While no teams have been knocking down Dave Dombrowski’s door looking to acquire one of these catchers, that could change if a club were to suddenly become desperate to fill a thin position. The Kansas City Royals could be that team if they lose Salvador Perez for an extended period.

ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported that Perez injured his UCL and may require Tommy John surgery, which would knock him out for the entire 2019 season.

Perez went for a second opinion and the worst-case scenario was confirmed. The All-Star catcher will have surgery next week and miss the upcoming season, reports MLB Network’s Jon Heyman.

With limited options remaining on the free agent market, a trade would be Kansas City’s best option to fill his spot.

None of the catchers that the Red Sox can offer will come close to replicating the production the Royals will lose from Perez. The 28-year old has five Gold Gloves, two Silver Sluggers, and routinely bashes 20+ home runs each year. There are no catchers available who can replace that and the rebuilding Royals aren’t going to try. What they need is a serviceable major league-ready catcher who can either help their young pitching staff or offer long-term upside.

Boston can offer either or both, depending on what the Royals want. Vazquez has the most value as a strong defensive catcher who has shown flashes of offensive ability and is signed to a team-friendly deal that pays him just over $20 million over the next four seasons (including the $7 million team option in 2022). Assuming Perez can return in 2020, Kansas City may not be interested in that commitment though.

Leon is cheaper, owed only $2.475 million this year and still arbitration eligible next year. His anemic bat is a liability in the lineup but he has excellent defensive metrics and the pitching staff raves about him. He could have some short-term value to the Royals. The concern with the Red Sox trading Leon is how the deal would be received by their pitching staff. With Chris Sale hitting free agency next winter, is trading away his preferred battery mate a wise decision?

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Swihart offers the most offensive upside, won’t be a free agent until 2023, and should remain affordable in the meantime even if he’s relegated to a backup role when Perez eventually returns. The question is, how high are the Royals on Swihart’s ability to catch? Defensively, he’s the most unproven of the trio and therefore may not be the ideal choice if the Royals need an everyday catcher.

It’s unclear what the Royals could offer in return even if they are interested in one of these catchers. The bullpen is where Boston needs help but Kansas City already sold off their best relievers over the last couple of years. Would Drew Storen, Brad Boxberger or Jake Diekman be enough of an upgrade over what the Red Sox already have?

Boston could take back a mid-level prospect or two instead. Maybe they’ll uncover a diamond in the rough with an under-the-radar player who emerges down the line. If nothing else, they can potentially shave some salary from their payroll to give them some additional wiggle room for a trade deadline deal in July.

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There’s been no indication that the sides have discussed a deal yet but with Perez out of the picture this season, it would behoove the Royals to make a call to ask about their catching surplus.