In 2014, Christian Vazquez broke onto the scene as one of the best defensive catchers that the organization has seen in quite some time. The Red Sox have been mixing and matching catchers behind the plate since Jason Varitek retired after the 2011 season. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Kelly Shoppach and even Ryan Lavarnway saw time behind the plate before the Red Sox dipped into their farm system to provide some relief.
While Vazquez is certainly not an offensive player (.240/1 HR/20 RBI), his defensive game is a once-in-a-generational type of talent. With a caught stealing rate of 27% during the 2014 season, it looked as if Vazquez was going to be cemented behind the plate for years to come. Unfortunately, during Spring Training in 2015, Vazquez underwent Tommy John surgery and missed the entire season. In that time, top prospect Blake Swihart was propelled into the starting position behind the plate and was a pleasant surprise, especially in the 2nd half of the season. In 84 games, Swihart hit .274 with 5 home runs and 31 RBIs, but was at times a defensive liability.
With Vazquez slated to return this season, there has been a healthy debate as to who will be the catcher of the future for the Boston Red Sox. While Swihart has been given the nod for Opening Day, the Red Sox seem hesitant to commit long-term to either player. And rightfully so.
There is no question about Swihart's unique offensive ability. However, catcher is a position that does not require a 20 home run, 85 RBI-type of guy. This is just my opinion, but I would rather have a defensive-minded catcher that can lead a pitching staff with confidence and swagger.
Christian Vazquez is that guy. Simply put, pitchers love throwing to him.
But what should the Red Sox do with Blake Swihart? Should they move him to first base (even though he possesses little power) after David Ortiz retires and Hanley Ramirez slides in at DH? Then what happens to Travis Shaw and Pablo Sandoval?
Again, this is just my opinion, but I do not believe that the value of Blake Swihart will ever be higher than it is right now. Scouts around the league love Blake Swihart and, with an iffy starting rotation, the Red Sox could use him to get a legitimate #2 pitcher. If a package centered around Blake Swihart brought back a guy like Sonny Gray, Jose Fernandez, or Chris Sale, I would not be surprised to see him moved before this season's Trade Deadline IF (and that is a big if), the Red Sox are in contention. With so many jobs on the line this upcoming season, it is imperative that the Red Sox are at least contending in the AL East in 2016.