Will the Red Sox make a free-agent run at Christian Vázquez?
The Boston Red Sox were full of surprises at the 2022 season trading deadline.
That JD Martinez and Nathan Eovaldi stayed anchored to the roster struck me. I figured both were gone. Then there was the real surprise: trading catcher Christian Vázquez.
Vázquez had been a stable commodity behind the plate with solid defense and excellent contributions to the offense. Vázquez was no Carlton Fisk or Jason Varitek but few are. If Boston were making a run for the playoffs, Vázquez would have to be in the middle of it. What was Chaim Bloom thinking?
The fallback plan was a trade with the White Sox for catcher Reese McGuire, a journeyman at best. McGuire’s claim to fame was a video released by TMZ that covered his arrest for a Pee Wee Herman-type infraction. Just more fodder for the now despondent Red Sox fans.
McGuire was noted as a solid defender, but you just gave away his at-bats. That changed when the lefty hit .337 in his 36-game stint with Boston. And it was a solid .337. An illusion? A mirage?
Next season McGuire will be 28 years old and, better yet, is cheap. Is he the future – at least for 2023? Boston also released backup catcher Kevin Plawecki which caused a mild firestorm since Plawecki was well respected for his behind-the-plate abilities and leadership. Backup now became the territory of Connor Wong.
Wong did not issue any hitting threats to MLB pitchers with a dismal .188 average, but at Worcester (AAA), it was a different tune with 15 home runs and a .288 average, which nailed down team MVP honors. Are McGuire and Wong the future of Boston catching? Is Ronaldo Hernández in the mix? What I saw of Hernández at Worcester, screams out a designated hitter.
Vázquez will be a free agent and should have several suitors even at 32 years old. A three-year contract is not out of the question, and Boston conceivably could see a return of the well-liked Vázquez. Vázquez still has bitterness, as covered in this BSI article. But the long history with the Red Sox organization could be a deal maker and not a deal breaker.
The free-agent list for catchers has Willson Contreras as the potentially top target. Contreras is a steady but not spectacular defender, can hit with power and is a multiple All-Star. Power also relates to Mike Zunino, who hammered out 33 in 2021. The righty is a legitimate power present at catcher but also carries a .200 career average.
Gary Sánchez has always hit well at Fenway Park, with nine home runs and 27 RBI, and a .250 batting average. That average is an improvement over his .225 career average. Sánchez is a risk defensively with terrible footwork and glove skills but a cannon arm. If the Red Sox management opts for right-hand power, it would be Sánchez.
Tucker Barnhart is now available if it is defense the Red Sox wish. Barnhart is a two-time Gold Glover with an occasional punch with his bat. A strong arm and is noted for controlling the running game. A distinct possibility. The rest of the list is constructed of vets on the way out and those with limited skills.
The risk of staying put with McGuire-Wong is if McGuire’s hitting with Boston is an apparition, and we saw that with Plawecki’s 2021 season. The more I look at this, the more I would be inclined to make a solid run at a Vázquez return.
A righty-lefty combo of McGuire/Vázquez provides lineup flexibility, solid defense, and not giving away at-bats. If the Vázquez deal is too rarified for the Red Sox, go with the McGuire/Wong combination. The market could damper any possible Vázquez return, but he would be a welcome back addition.