We are officially one week from the trade deadline, one of the most entertaining times of the year no matter your favorite team’s place in the standings. Presumably, you already know this. But if you didn’t, congratulations on learning something new today. You can go back to bed and feel good about it.
Another thing most of us already know is that the Red Sox are clear sellers without much to sell. They aren’t in tear-down mode, which makes things a little more complicated, but they certainly could benefit from trading veterans who won’t be contributing to the next good Red Sox team. This is a point that has been covered many, many times before, including just a few days ago by Marc.
One name that hasn’t been thrown around all that much is Ryan Hanigan. Sure, there have been a few suggestions, and Marc mentioned him at the end of his post. But these are mostly just thrown out as slight possibilities, not as something truly likely to happen. This struck me as strange at first, until I really started to think about it.
First, let’s take a minute to look at the reasons it would make sense to trade him right now. For one thing, he’s healthy. It’s a whole lot easier to trade a healthy baseball player than an injured one. That much is obvious. There is also the fact that next year’s roster — which, again, is what they are really building for at this point — has a good chance of housing both Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart. Sure, there’s a possibility they’d like to see one of them get a little more play with Pawtucket, but eventually they will both be in Boston together, barring injury. Of course, that would leave Hanigan on the outside looking in.
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Although he’s not the type of player who will command a huge return — he’s sporting an 82 OPS+ right now and has a career mark of 89 — he’d certainly create some interest. Off the top of my head, contending teams like the Twins, Angels could use some help behind the plate. It would leave the Red Sox in a less-than-desirable spot of giving at bats to someone like Sandy Leon, but, again, this year doesn’t matter. They should be able to live with that if they can extract even a little bit of value from Hanigan right now, right? Well, not exactly.
Even if the Red Sox can’t win this season, and even if Hanigan isn’t part of the picture when they can win again, it doesn’t mean he can be an important part of it. He plays the very important role of Veteran Leader on a team that desperately needs one at his position. Blake Swihart has a lot of great tools, but it’s clear he hasn’t quite put them together in a way that makes him useful at the major-league level yet. Even if we all dream of Swihart being far superior to Hanigan when he fully matures, it doesn’t mean the latter can’t be an important mentor for the rest of the year. Although the rookie has the potential to be an average-to-plus defensive catcher, he’s not there yet. Having one of the more respected defensive backstops in the game playing with him certainly can’t hurt. Swihart has also had some issues with being overaggressive in his short MLB career. Hanigan, meanwhile, builds his entire offensive game on patience. Presumably, these two spend a lot of time together as the only two catchers on the team, so maybe a little of this approach can be passed on to Swihart as the season goes on.
It’s not only the young catcher than Hanigan can have this kind of impact on, either. Eduardo Rodriguez and Brian Johnson have already made their debuts this season, and there’s a decent chance that Henry Owens will make his at some point as well. While all three of these guys have talent, they can all use some more seasoning. Specifically, they can all use a little more practice with sequencing. While young pitchers can get by in the minors on stuff, control and command, the best pitchers at the highest level need strong sequencing to get by. Hanigan, you see, has earned a reputation for being an excellent game caller. Even if the Red Sox add the big name starting pitcher most of us hope for, they’ll still be counting on at least one (and probably two) of Rodriguez, Johnson and Owens next year. Being able to help them in an area that is very hard to develop could prove invaluable for the team moving forward.
Now, is any of this a good enough reason to hold on to Hanigan if another team is willing to blow Boston away with an offer? Of course not. It’s just unlikely to happen. For all of the little things that Hanigan can do, he’s still a backup catcher at the end of the day. Eventually the Red Sox will have to sort out their catching situation, but that can be taken care of over the winter. For now, the smart move is to keep Hanigan and let him assist in the development of Swihart and the young pitching. Even if there’s a decent chance he won’t be part of the next good Red Sox team, there’s plenty Hanigan can do to influence it.