Between Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart, the Red Sox have two strong young catching prospects. Vazquez is the defensive genius, whose ability behind the plate could earn him a major league job even if he took three strikes down the middle every time he went up to bat. Swihart is the total package, combining solid defensive chops with a bat that could carry him in an outfield spot. Both could be deserving of a starting spot when all is said and done, and if both do end up making good on their potential, the Red Sox aren't likely to let the value of a good young catcher go to waste on the bench.
So with the Sox lining up a trade for San Diego's Ryan Hanigan, there are rumblings that perhaps this is just the precursor to another trade. One sending Christian Vazquez--or even Blake Swihart, with Hanigan still under contract for multiple years--to, say, Philadelphia as part of a package for Cole Hamels. Or any other team with an ace for trade. Is this just the first step in a larger plan? After all, Hanigan has shown in the past that he's good enough to deserve more time than your average backup/platoon catcher. It wouldn't be the worst thing in the world to find the backup a backup and make him a stopgap to Swihart.
I, for one, hope that's not the plan. It's hard to find quality catchers these days, leaving the Red Sox in quite the enviable position with Swihart and Vazquez. While there are never any guarantees with prospects, having two of them as good as Boston's gives the Red Sox a pretty fantastic chance of coming away with one locked in as the team's starting catcher for years to come.
Why, then, should the Red Sox be looking at this from a perspective of having one to spare? At least at the moment, they don't. Blake Swihart has never seen a major league at bat, and Christian Vazquez' haven't been hugely impressive. If Vazquez' glove is still good enough on its own to hold down the fort for a while, the upside on a fully-realized Swihart is high enough to price them into holding onto him even with Vazquez already providing them more of a sure thing in the majors.
Certainly, the reality of the world is that you have to give something up to get something back, and if the Red Sox want an "ace" then they'll either need to find one in free agency or give up some of their talent--likely young talent--to get one in a trade.
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Catcher, however, is just not the position to mess with. Not when they're in such a good position to lock in a player at the position for six-plus years. It's one of the most difficult positions to fill with any real level of talent. Given the dearth of talent available and the toll the position takes on those who play it, the free agent market is usually filled with a dire combination of the awful (A.J. Pierzynski, anyone?) and the hugely risky (Brian McCann). The Red Sox muddled through three years of Jarrod Saltalamacchia with his three-ring circus defense because he had a league average bat with the help of some BABIP inflation, and I'll be damned if we didn't feel fortunate for it.
With a team like the Red Sox that can pay to find quality at other positions, finding talent at a position like catcher where so little is available is all the more important. Frankly, the lows of the position are so low that trading Swihart would almost be preferable to trading Vazquez, just because Vazquez is almost guaranteed to give the Red Sox something.
But this isn't an either-or decision for the Red Sox. Not yet, at least. Holding onto their catchers and ensuring that they come away from this with an actual quality MLB starter is far more important than picking up an ace for 2015, particularly when there are other ways to strengthen the rotation without trading away either Swihart or Vazquez. If, in two years, Swihart has established himself, Vazquez' glove will still carry plenty of value on the market. And if he hasn't, then we'll all be happy that the Red Sox held onto Vazquez when looking out at a sea of available catchers that run the gamut from terrible to terribly risky.