Swihart Designated for Assignment: A Confusing Move

When you begin a season 6-12, especially in a large market, fans react impulsively. If certain players get off to bad starts, people call for their heads. It is not necessarily fair, but it is the nature of a place like big-market Boston. With catcher Blake Swihart being let go after just 17 games, it indeed felt impulsive. Considering turmoil across the rotation, lack of bullpen depth, and an anemic offense, it indeed seemed time for a change. With Swihart designated for assignment, the Red Sox tried to solve a litany of issues by moving one role player, and it’ is hard to understand why.

With Swihart designated for assignment, the roster subtracted a versatile, cost-Swihart Designated for Assignmentcontrolled player yet to blossom. As Alex Cora tussled with how to use the former first round pick throughout 2018, the consensus was that he was a valuable trade chip that provided depth off the bench. The Red Sox never moved him, and it seemed to pay off in the second half after Swihart flashed his ability with increased playing time. 2019 was when Swihart was going to get a real shot at becoming the catcher of the future. Christian Vazquez would get his innings, but Swihart was going to get ample time on the diamond. But after just a handful of contests, a sputtering team decided to make a move. It just does not feel like the right one.

Swihart was never really given a clear path to a major role

With Swihart designated for assignment, it might easy to forget his origins. A first round pick, 26th overall out of New Mexico in 2011, he brought with him a Gatorade National Player of the Year award. The Red Sox drooled over his athleticism, seeing him as a steal at 26 in the first round. He surfaced in the bigs in 2015, which at the time felt a tad premature. He was solid across 84 games as a rookie, particularly showing defensive improvement as the season progressed. It was 2016 where the wheels came off. Trying to incorporate Vazquez back into the mix meant moving Swihart around the field to find playing time. After a nasty ankle injury in left field, it took him nearly two entire seasons to return to full health. From there, Swihart played spottily all over the place, and never settled in. Since the beginning of 2018, there has never been a clear spot for him, and that has now shown through with this DFA.

Removing Swihart hurts the team’s versatility

It is tough to make sense of why removing a cheap, young, versatile player was the best move. On a roster that has underwhelmed, Swihart at least provided intrigue. Despite management shifting his focus to catching in 2019, he still managed to appear at other positions. How could the Red Sox justify keeping him all last season, just to DFA him now? In comparison to other players such as Eduardo Nunez, who is relegated to the infield, why remove the guy that can move around the diamond? Sure, Swihart’s .213/.310/.385 slash line through 12 games played is unimpressive. But looking at what other role players have offered so far, it really is odd to make him the (first?) fall guy.

Perhaps there are issues off the field that the fan base does not know about. Maybe Blake Swihart was not a long term solution. Whatever the case, his days in Boston are numbered, and it remains to be seen what baseball holds for his future.

Blake Swihart Staying in Boston: What Will His Role Be?

In what might be considered by some as a surprising move, the Boston Red Sox placed Sandy Leon on waivers this week, paving the way to a more defined role for Blake Swihart on the roster. With Swihart staying, the Red Sox give the keys to a player still yet to reach his full potential. Subtracting the third catcher means Swihart can focus his attention on being a backstop, and not bouncing around the diamond. What is the reason why the club insists on keeping New Mexico native in tow? Let’s dive in.

Swihart’s impressive athleticism makes him a rare find behind the dish

Christian Vazquez, barring injury, will see the majority of the starts behind the plate in Swihart staying2018. That might be the exact fit Swihart needs to carve out a role on the club. As a backup, Swihart brings a sweet-swinging, switch-hitting bat off the bench. His versatility by being able to move around the infield and outfield presents him opportunities everywhere. Throughout the 2018 season, Alex Cora found Swihart useful as a pinch runner, which only adds to the intrigue. A backup catcher that can pinch run? Certainly a rare commodity. Swihart has always possessed a strong throwing arm, but his improving defense at the plate has encouraged the Boston brass enough to give him the job over Leon, who was adored by the pitching staff for his game calling and pitch framing ability. But Swihart’s value extends beyond his flexibility around the field.

Noticeable offensive improvements offer a glimmer of hope for Swihart

In the first half of the 2018 season, predating Vazquez’ broken finger, Swihart staying seemed like an afterthought. Trade rumors swirled, but as teams came calling, the Red Sox stuck with him, and it paid dividends. After posting a meager .167 average through mid-summer, the former top catching prospect started to discover himself at the dish. Once he earned more regular playing time, Swihart hit .277 with a .734 OPS in the second half. These numbers would have placed him among the top offensive catchers in the league should he have qualified.

After a season where Sox catchers profiled among the league’s worst offensively across the board, Swihart brought some welcome optimism for production out of the bottom third of the lineup. He also just put together a torrid spring in Grapefruit League action, slashing .414/.433/.517 with three doubles, five RBI, and a pair of stolen bases.That is a .951 OPS through 29 at bats! Spring training or not, that is impressive, a certainly a part of the reason why Swihart staying makes sense.

More regular playing time for Swihart was a gamble the team was willing to make. They know what he has in the tank, and it was enough to waive a popular clubhouse guy and a quality backstop in Leon. Swihart staying means Vazquez will have to be at his best, because one of the game’s (former) top catching prospects is ready to reemerge.

Sox Should Trade Blake Swihart

After moving Clay Buchholz to the bullpen and demoting Joe Kelly to Pawtucket, the Red Sox desperately need starting pitching. Their starters have been battered to the tune of a 4.79 ERA and .748 OPS this year, which isn’t a recipe for a successful season. Boston’s won anyways because the offense has been crushing it, but when happens when the lineup slumps? The Red Sox don’t really have much minor league talent ready to make an impact in the rotation, so the quickest and most direct way to an upgrade is through the trade market. To accomplish this, the Sox should trade Blake Swihart.

Not too long ago, such a proposal would have seemed outrageousSox Should Trade Blake Swihart. Swihart is a prized prospect, an athletic 24-year-old catcher who can switch-hit and provide plus offense at a premium position. Teams love to build around guys like that. He seemed destined to become the next Jason Varitek or Carlton Fisk.

Now, his future in Boston is uncertain. The team has committed to Christian Vazquez, another talented young backstop, due to his superior game management and receiving skills. Swihart was demoted in April despite a strong start at the plate, learned to play left field, and is now back with the big club in a part-time role. The problem is, his bat plays much better behind the plate, where he’s a clear offensive plus. In left, however, his hitting is average at best.

So therein lies the problem. Swihart is a great player without a clear role on the Red Sox, which limits his value to them at the present. He’s still very attractive to other teams, however, where he would represent a clear improvement at catcher. Ipso facto, Swihart is worth more to other teams than he is to the Sox, which is why they should move him now while his perceived value is still high, before a prolonged slump or injury potentially drags it down.

Swihart alone should net a pretty sweet return, and if Boston packages him with some prospects they could land another top-shelf starter to pair with Price (Sonny Gray, perhaps?). The Red Sox should trade Blake Swihart soon, however, because if they wait until late July it might be too late.

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.

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.

Red Sox First Half Report Card by Position: Catcher

Red Sox first half catchers

With maybe the Red Sox’ biggest free agency signing of last offseason gone in A.J. Pierzynski, the team has caught a good glimpse of who may be their future catcher—Christian Vazquez. Pierzynski replaced Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who posted solid numbers last season which included a slash line of .273/.338/.466. The most hated player in the league just wasn’t putting up the numbers that would warrant him staying with the team though. With just 15 extra base hits and nine walks through 72 games, the “offensive” catcher may have trouble finding a new job elsewhere.

David Ross isn’t quite doing his job as well as last year either. Base stealers have been successful 74% of the time, up from 59% last year. While we don’t expect much at the plate from him, his .176 average needs to improve a bit. With all this being said, it is clear that he has a connection with some of the pitchers on the team, including the ace, Jon Lester.

Ross isn’t the only catcher on the team that knows how to call a game anymore though.

If there wasn’t anyone waiting in the wings, the Sox may have had to stick out the rest of the season with Pierzynski. Luckily, Christian Vazquez appears as if he is ready to play in the big leagues. He has already shown his quickness behind the plate, making some confident snap throws down to first, which is something that not all rookies would do in their first few games. At the plate, he’s gone 5-11 in his first three games, with three doubles and five RBIs. He wasn’t brought up for his bat, but the 23-year-old hit .289 in Portland last season and was hitting .279 in Pawtucket at the time of his call-up. It would be great if Vazquez could provide similar numbers in the majors, which I don’t think any Sox fan would complain about.

A.J. Pierzynski- Grade: D

David Ross- Grade: C

Christian Vazquez: Incomplete (A so far)