Middlebrooks Gone, Red Sox Get Ryan Hanigan

ryan hanigan

In need of a backup catcher, the Boston Red Sox were able to kill two birds with one stone.
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First of all, Will Middlebrooks posed a bit of a problem for the club. He hit .254 in his first 169 big league games and smacked 32 home runs, making it clear that he was going to be one of the best power hitting third baseman in the game.

In 63 games in 2014, Middlebrooks hit just two home runs in 63 games with a dismal .256 OBP, putting his future with the Red Sox organization in peril.

Also, the Red Sox needed a backup catcher and were able to get one by trading Will Middlebrooks to the San Diego Padres. In return, the Boston Red Sox will obtain catcher Ryan Hanigan who the Padres will get in the Wil Myers deal when it is all said and done.ryan hanigan

Hanigan, who never has and most likely never will play in a big league game for the San Diego Padres, spent 2014 as a member of the Tampa Bay Rays and hit .218 with a .318 OBP in 84 games and clipped five home runs. It was a down year for Hanigan and the Red Sox will bank on him being better than he was this past season.
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Plate discipline has always been a big part of Hanigan’s game. He has walked 220 times and struck out on just 198 in his career, showing his knowledge of the strike zone. As a result, Hanigan puts a lot of balls in play and is good for a few sacrifice hits a season.

Defensively, Hanigan has thrown out 38% of attempted base stealers in his career and lead the league gunning down 48% in 2012 and 45% in 2013.
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Typically, Hanigan serves his team as a platoon catcher, playing more than a backup but less than a starter. Expect Red Sox rookie catcher Christian Vazquez to catch at around 60%-67% of the time next season while Hanigan will see around 33%-40% of the reps if all goes well.

Now that the Red Sox have Hanigan who is signed for the next two years, trading Blake Swihart is a definite possibility. Although many people may not want to trade him, the return would be rather large and could set the Red Sox up for a championship next season.
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The 34-year-old Hanigan is a graduate of Andover High School in Andover, Massachusetts. Welcome back Ryan Hanigan, welcome back.

White Sox Sign Melky Cabrera

melky cabrera

The Chicago White Sox have been amid a highly productive off season in order to recover from a dreadful 73-89 performance last season, and it got even bigger.
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In addition to trading for Jeff Samardjiza and signing three big names in Adam LaRoche, David Robertson and Zach Duke, the team landed another big one. Agreeing to terms with outfielder Melky Cabrera, the team took this off season to a whole new level.melky cabrera

According to Brett Levine of 670 The Score, the deal is pending a physical and will total around $45 million a three year deal.
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Last season, Cabrera was highly productive as he hit .301 with a .351 OBP and clubbed 16 home runs in 139 games, making it one of his best years to date. His season ended on an right pinkie fracture he suffered after being picked off by Boston Red Sox rookie catcher Christian Vazquez.

2012 however, takes home the title of Melky Cabrera’s best year to date. In 113 games, he smacked 11 home runs and 10 triples. He hit .346 with a .390 OBP and made his sole All-Star appearance of his career but was shut down late in the season when he was suspended for 50 games for use of performance-enhancing drugs. Even though he was eligible to return to the Giants late in the post season, they decided to keep him off the roster and still gave him a ring for his contributions to the team.
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For the White Sox, the addition of Cabrera will be huge. He will most likely be the team’s starting left fielder while Adam Eaton mans center field and Dayan Viciedo will see most of his playing time in right field.
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Right now, the Chicago White Sox look like they are heading in the right direction for 2015. They have spent a great deal of money this off season, so do not be surprised if they are a highly competitive team this off season. It will be interesting to see what they have in store next.

September Showed Christian Vazquez’s Offensive Skills

Christian VazquezFor those who actually watched the Boston Red Sox play meaningless baseball in September, I salute you. You’re a rarity in this day and age, and your loyalty is inspiring. With that said, you were probably focused on the offensive emergence of Xander Bogaerts and Mookie Betts, and on new-comer Rusney Castillo. They, in all honesty, were the men to watch in September, so it’s no surprise they were the ones you were talking about. However, there’s a Red Sox by the name of Christian Vazquez who also had himself a very solid month from the plate, but he doesn’t nearly get the recognition he deserves for it. Well, if it wasn’t already obvious, my mission in the subsequent paragraphs will be to shed light on Vazquez’s terrific final month of the 2014 season.

It is, indeed, irrefutable that Vazquez is a special talent, and his defensive aptitude is already at an elite-level. His offensive skills, on the other hand, have been his Achilles’ heel in his rookie season. Yet the Red Sox don’t mind — at least for this waste of a season — taking the trade-off, and rightfully so. Vazquez, with his 0.7 fWAR that doesn’t take into account his tremendous pitch-framing ability, pegs him as a valuable commodity even with his lackluster offensive contributions. Further, Oliver 5 Year Projection projects going forward that the right-handed hitting catcher will be worth roughly two and half wins each of the next five seasons

Now, this system isn’t perfect, but does give us a good indication on how a player will perform the next five years based on numerous factors such as his major and minor league production, as well as his age, ballpark, etc.

The point being, there’s reason to be optimistic about Vazquez even if his offense never comes. But, as I wrote three weeks back, there’s all the reason in the world to be hopeful that his bat will, in fact, come around. And wouldn’t you know it has come around this September.

Oh, yes, and in 74 plate appearances in that span the 24-year-old churned an exceptional .277/.351/.385 slash line, which resonates into an above-average 107 wRC+. His .333 BABIP in September doesn’t suggest luck has played a big role; therefore, there’s no reason to believe this won’t persist, given his minor-league track record. There’s no guarantee Vazquez becomes a decent bat, but, at the very least, he has shown he can hit in MLB.

Is This David Ross’ Last Year in a Red Sox Uniform?

David Ross

Source: Rob Carr/Getty Images North America

While watching the Boston Red Sox triumph over the contending Kansas City Royals 8-4 on Sunday, a thought dawned on me. Well, actually, two thoughts; one of which revolved around Ned Yost’s inexplicable decision to leave Aaron Crow in against Daniel Nava, with Kelvin Herrera right there.

But that’s a story for a different day.

Anyway, I sat there Sunday and watched as the “Blue Wolf,” more popularly known as David Ross, drew a walk in two of his four plate appearances on the afternoon. It was the first time the backstop had reached base since September 2nd. Granted, Ross only played in one other game in that time span, so he didn’t really have ample opportunities to get on base. Yet, it was a rare occurrence, as the bearded veteran only has compiled a pedestrian .264 on-base percentage this year, but it was a welcomed sight nonetheless.

Offensively, there’s nothing better to describe Ross’ two-year tenure in Beantown other than a complete disaster. In 290 plate appearances with the Red Sox, the 37-year-old compiled an abysmal .195/.274/.359 slash line to this point. Now, he didn’t have lofty offensive expectations when he joined the club during the 2012-2013 offseason, but the man does own a .753 career OPS and is a right-handed hitter in Fenway Park. That said, injuries have plagued him, notably concussions, which played a huge role in his offensive demise these last two years. Still, even with his offensive shortcomings, there’s a plausible argument to be made that Ross has, indeed, been a valuable commodity as a member of the Red Sox.

Intangibles aside, his defensive metrics have registered him a positive fWAR in each of the last two seasons despite his horrendous offensive numbers. Keep in mind those numbers don’t take into account pitch framing, something Ross does exceptionally well with. StatCorner, though, does track pitch framing, and rates Ross as the fifth-most valuable catcher, where pitch framing is concerned, in the American League, even with his limited playing time.

This speaks volumes to how important Ross really is to the Red Sox. Unfortunately, however, his contract runs out after this season, and although he said he’d like to play one more year, there’s a good chance he won’t come back next season.

Boston likely desires a left-handed complement for Christian Vazquez next year, something Ross isn’t, and with Blake Swihart knocking on the door, the outlook for a return is glum.

The humble father of two has become a fan favorite the last few seasons, representing more than just 1’s and 0’s. He’s from every indication, a great guy, teammate, and leader; something that a young team like the Red Sox could use. It’s also not as if he’s attributing negative value; no, he’s added value with his defensive talent.

The aforementioned thought was this, “it sure would be sad to see Ross leave.”

Indeed, it would.

Who Will the Boston Red Sox Catchers be Next Season?

christian vasquezBoston Red Sox rookie catcher Christian Vazquez has taken the league by storm in nearly a quarter of a season playing in the big leagues. In 39 games for Boston, the Puerto Rican catcher is hitting .234/.292/.289, but his defense gives him pride. Behind the dish, he has gunned down 10 of 21 attempted base stealers good for 48% caught stealing. Compare this to the league average which is a mere 27%. His WAR on defense stands at 1.0 and will only get better as he plays in more games. Defense alone is enough to warrant Vazquez a starting job, but the fact that his bat will come around is a plus.
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Since Vazquez is set to be the starting catcher, Boston is in position to bring in a new backup. With David Ross set to be a free agent, there is an outside chance the club brings in someone else to catch instead of their backup who is set to turn 38-years-old by Opening Day 2015.

Of the catchers set to be free agents this offseason, none of them are the least bit appealing. Sure, they would make decent backup catchers, but they are all a few years removed from their primes and are hardly good enough to be considered replacement players anymore (WAR > 0.0). Gerald Laird, Geovany Soto, John Buck, Wil Nieves and A.J. Pierzynski are hardly appealing options for Boston, especially when these men refuse to play for under $1 million a year as Doug Mirabelli did in the last year of his career. Instead, these men want several million a year to hurt the team’s chances for success.
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Although he is hardly a replacement player anymore, re-signing David Ross seems like a more appealing option each day. His .184/.256/.362 slash line does not appeal to most, but his veteran presence in the clubhouse does. Defensively, he is nowhere near his old self gunning down just 21% of would-be base stealers compared to 48% in 2009. It does not hurt that he has such a positive reputation in Boston and a weak free agency market boosts his case even further.

Lastly, Dan Butler makes an interesting case to be a backup catcher for the Boston Red Sox next season. Set to earn the league minimum, Butler is a cheaper option who may be able to give the same type of output at the plate and behind the plate as some of these veterans on their ways out. Boasting good plate discipline and everything a pitcher wants from a catcher, he could find his way on the Opening Day roster next season.
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With Blake Swihart catching in AAA Pawtucket, Boston would be in position to try Swihart out at the big league level if either catcher struggled — Vazquez or the catcher to be named later. Now though, Boston must look at their options carefully and decide who their best options are at catcher.

Defense First For Red Sox Catcher Christian Vazquez

vazquezIn the field in baseball, defense is important however, it is not as important as hitting. Hitting is what gives a player pride; it’s what makes David Ortiz so great and makes the difference between a lifelong Minor League player and a lifelong Major League player.

Fielding is important, depending on the position. As a catcher,for example, defense is quite important and sometimes it can even outweigh a player’s dismal performance at the plate. Gunning down attempted base stealers, calling the game, and catching every single ball thrown are responsibilities of a catcher. This job is important and can effect the outcome of a ball game.
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For Boston Red Sox rookie catcher Christian Vazquez defense is his specialty. His bat lags behind as he is slashing .225/.287/.275 while posting a dismal .561 OPS in 102 at-bats. Not only this, but Vazquez is two for his last 17 and is on pace to finish this season hitting below the Mendoza Line (.200).

Behind the dish it is a completely different story for Vazquez—gunning down nine of 20 would-be base stealers good for 45% caught stealing. As a game caller, he is advanced for a 24-year-old and is one of the top defensive catchers in the game.
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No, he is not the fourth Molina brother, but he works out with them in the winter in Puerto Rico and is just as good defensively.

Next year, it is assumed Vazquez will be seeing the lion’s share of playing time at catcher for the Red Sox — even if it is in a platoon. Boston is willing to take the good with the bad and will let Vazquez continue to catch for them despite his obvious flaws. To meet the standards of being the starting catcher, Vazquez will need to keep playing his tremendous defense and get his OBP up to a number which starts with a three.

No, he is not the next Ivan Rodriguez, but Vazquez could be just as good defensively while he lacks the bat of the future Hall of Famer.
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With the anticipated emergence of Blake Swihart, Vazquez will have competition in the future. Still though, Vazquez is here to stay and may find himself in a platoon with Swihart by around the halfway mark next year. All would need to go well for Swihart for that to occur while Vazquez must keep his average above the Mendoza Line.

As always, defense comes first for Christian Vazquez. It is the reason why he is the starting catcher of a big league club and it is the reason why he is getting paid. No matter what else happens next year, Boston will be sound at catcher as long as Christian Vazquez stays healthy.