The Boston Red Sox are reportedly in active trade discussions involving catcher Sandy Leon. Will the veteran catcher be dealt before the season?
The Boston Red Sox have been quietly shopping a catcher all spring and it seems Sandy Leon is the most likely to be dealt.
ESPN’s Buster Olney reports that the Red Sox are actively discussing potential trades involving Leon.
While they made it work last season, Boston has no desire to carry three catchers on their roster for another year. Leon split catching duties fairly evenly with Christian Vazquez last year, relegating Blake Swihart to a seldom-used third stringer.
The Red Sox have worked on expanding Swihart’s versatility in recent years by trying him at other positions. He appeared in 82 games last season, only 28 of which were as a catcher. He was the starting catcher only 16 times. Trading Leon would suggest the team is comfortable relying on Swihart more often behind the plate. Even if Vazquez earns the starting role, Swihart would see a lot more work.
A strong spring from Swihart may have convinced the Red Sox that one of their other catchers is expendable. He’s hitting .360 with a .865 OPS, three doubles and five RBI in 25 at-bats in Grapefruit League action.
Leon and Vazquez are both top-notch defensive catchers who tend to struggle with the bat. They have each shown flashes during their time with the Red Sox but neither was productive at the plate last year. If Swihart is going to start approaching his lofty offensive ceiling while proving he can hold his own defensively, the Red Sox only need one defensive-minded catcher to pair him with.
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The contract of Vazquez, which owes him just over $10.5 million over the next three years (plus a $7 million team option in 2022), should make him a more valuable trade chip. It also may be why the Red Sox prefer to keep him. With several key players hitting free agency in the next two years, the cost-certainty of a team-friendly deal has value.
The biggest concern with trading Leon is how the news would be received by Chris Sale. Leon has been the primary battery mate for the lefty since he came to Boston. Is it wise to tick off the ace when he’s eligible for free agency after the season?
Boston shouldn’t expect to receive much in return for Leon, a 30-year old catcher with a career .226 average and .626 OPS. His defense and game-calling skills are valuable but he’s not going to bring back a blue-chip prospect in return. The Red Sox may hope to acquire a reliever to upgrade their questionable bullpen but will more likely settle for a middling prospect.
There’s no word yet on any teams showing interest in Leon but given the lack of depth at the catcher position around the majors, some team must be willing to give up something for him. It won’t be much, but it’ll be better than nothing.