Could Christian Vázquez return to the Boston Red Sox?
The midseason trade that shipped Christian Vázquez to the Houston Astros was an unpopular decision in the Boston Red Sox clubhouse and with the fanbase, but it turned out well for the veteran catcher in the end.
On Saturday night, the Astros defeated the Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series, earning Vázquez the second World Series ring of his career, to go with the one he received as a member of the 2018 Red Sox. He also made history as the second catcher in World Series history to be behind the dish for a no-hitter, and the first to catch a combined no-ho.
On Sunday night, Vázquez took to Twitter over the weekend to thank Houston for a memorable year.
The message gives off farewell vibes, hinting that Houston was a pitstop on his way to free agency. His time there was enormously successful, but the Astros acquired him as a rental knowing he’d reach free agency at the conclusion of the World Series.
If Vázquez isn’t planning to re-sign with the Astros, returning to the Red Sox is an alternative that would be beneficial for both sides. But would the 32-year-old be willing to leave a championship team for a club that finished last in their division this year? There’s reason to believe that he would.
Houston acquired Vázquez to be back-up to Martín Maldonado. Despite Vázquez’s superior production at the plate, the Astros preferred Maldonado’s rapport with the pitching staff and defensive presence behind the plate. Vázquez appeared in only 35 regular season games with the Astros down the stretch and his production dipped with the limited playing time. He hit .250/.278/.308 in 108 plate appearances. While that’s a significant improvement over Maldonado (.186/.248/.352), it still represented a decline from Vázquez’s first-half results with Boston and his career numbers, especially in recent years.
Vázquez was primarily used to spell Maldonado behind the plate and provide a pinch-hit option on the Houston bench. It’s a role that Vázquez was overqualified for, which is why he’s expected to explore other options in free agency. He will seek a team offering more playing time and a contract worthy of a starting catcher with ample, proven postseason experience, which seems unlikely to come from Houston, as Maldonado is signed through next season.
While his production with the Astros was mildly underwhelming, his bat is still considered above-average for a catcher and his performance in the World Series will give him a serious edge. The Astros preferred Maldonado’s mitt, but Vázquez has a strong defensive reputation as well. It was him, not Maldonado, behind the plate in Game 4 when Cristian Javier and the Astros bullpen tossed the first combined no-hitter in World Series history.
The Red Sox are a team to watch as suitors line up for Vázquez, but he’ll garner interest around the league, as well. Catchers who can defend and hit aren’t easy to find, and he’s a popular player in the clubhouse. Bringing him back to Boston would be a step in the right direction toward patching up the team’s relationship with players who weren’t thrilled with the approach to the trade deadline. Signing Vázquez isn’t going to be the deciding factor in convincing Xander Bogaerts to re-sign or inking Rafael Devers to an extension, but it certainly couldn’t hurt.
Boston is currently relying on the tandem of Reese McGuire and Connor Wong, but they are open to an upgrade. McGuire was impressive following the trade with the Chicago White Sox, hitting .337/.377/.500 in 36 games with the Red Sox. He flashed potential at the plate earlier in his career with the Toronto Blue Jays, but he’s never done it for anything close to a full season; his 89 games played this season set a new career high. Wong profiles as a career backup whose best attribute might be his versatility to handle other positions as well as his speed on the basepaths.
The Sox could potentially overhaul their pitching staff with several notable arms reaching free agency. Nonetheless, there will be plenty of pitchers remaining on this team who have experience throwing to Vázquez. Familiarity increases his value.
Boston’s curious trade deadline moves were widely scrutinized but this was a sinking ship derailed by injuries. Keeping Vázquez on the roster wasn’t going to change that so they cashed him in to collect other assets for their farm system. In sending Vázquez to a contender, they ultimately did him a favor, allowing him to earn a ring and improve his stock before hitting free agency. If he does end up returning to a revamped Red Sox team that plans on contending next season, it will have all worked out for the best for both sides.