Christian Vazquez’s goal is to retire with the Boston Red Sox.
The veteran catcher has heard his name pop up in trade rumors as the deadline approaches at the end of this month. The last-place Red Sox are clear sellers, having already traded away key pieces from their bullpen with more moves potentially on the horizon.
While he understands the business side of why the organization must consider their options, Vazquez isn’t ready to jump ship in the midst of this disappointing season. According to NBC Sports Boston’s John Tomase, Vazquez told reporters via a zoom call that his preference is to stay.
“I think we don’t control that,” he said. “We can control coming here and working hard every day. It’s going to be sad if I left Boston because all my career was here. I’ve been here, with one organization. My goal is to retire here. That’s my goal in my career, being part of one organization. Have one jersey on my chest for my career. But we don’t control that.”
Vazquez established himself as one of the game’s top catchers in a breakout campaign last season. He was always known for his strong defensive and came-calling skills behind the plate but his bat finally caught up. Vazquez hit .276 with a .798 OPS and a career-high 23 home runs that more than doubled his previous career total.
He’s cooled off since a scorching start that saw him blast all four of his home runs in his first five games of this season but Vazquez has done enough to prove last year’s power surge wasn’t a fluke.
Vazquez is under contract for $4.2 million this year (which will be prorated based on the shortened season) and $6.25 next season, plus a $7 million team option for 2022 ($250K buyout, option can increase to $8 million based on plate appearances). That’s a tremendous bargain based on his production from the last two seasons.
The 30-year-old would be a desirable asset if the Red Sox made him available. However, all the reasons that teams would want to acquire him are also reasons why Boston should keep him.
It’s one thing to trade away expendable pieces that aren’t part of your long-term future or those approaching free agency who the team feels they won’t be able to re-sign. The starting catcher who is locked up for a bargain price for potentially two more years doesn’t fit in that category.
This is a lost season but the Red Sox don’t intend to be out of contention for long. A bounce-back season in 2021 will require a trustworthy starting catcher. If the Red Sox trade Vazquez then they risk entering next season without a viable option at a key position.
Kevin Plawecki has been great in a very small sample this year but his track record shows why he’s a backup catcher. Connor Wong might be the catcher of the future but it’s too soon to say that he’ll be ready to step into that role next season.
J.T. Realmuto is the prize of this year’s free-agent crop. He’s undoubtedly the top catcher in the game but he’ll be expensive. Is he enough of an upgrade over Vazquez to justify the price differential? It seems unwise to trade away their affordable option who has been a great value based on his production just for the chance to chase the high-profile star in free agency.
The money it would cost to lure Realmuto would be better served fortifying the pitching staff, which is the obvious weakness of this team. Upgrading at catcher is far from a priority.
The only way it would make sense to trade Vazquez now is if he were bringing back a pitcher controlled for several more years who could be a legitimate No. 2 starter. If not someone who can step in immediately then at least a top prospect who can help in the near future. If they can use Vazquez as an asset to solve their rotation problem then splurging on a free-agent replacement at catcher might be reasonable.
The San Diego Padres are among the teams that are most heavily tied to the Vazquez rumors. If they were to offer Dinelson Lamet or a high-upside prospect such as Luis Patino, of course the Red Sox should listen. Those probably aren’t deals the Padres would make though. Their offer would more likely be built around Luis Campusano, an elite hitting catching prospect whose defensive skills are still a work in progress. Trading Vazquez for a prospect in need of more polishing signals the Red Sox don’t intend to contend next season.
What the Red Sox do with Vazquez at the deadline will tell us a lot about how they view this rebuild. Hanging on to him suggests they are aiming for a quick turnaround. Dealing him for anything short of a strong major league starting pitcher means we can expect Chaim Bloom to take his time restructuring the roster.
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For what it’s worth, Vazquez genuinely wants to be here. A player who came up through the organization, signed a team-friendly extension and isn’t on the verge of bolting in free agency seems like someone worth holding on to. Unless the Red Sox are blown away by an offer, the expectation is that he won’t be going anywhere this month.