The Red Sox have optioned catcher Blake Swihart to Pawtucket, making room for Christian Vazquez (and Marco Hernandez) on the major league roster.
This kind of sucks.
A few truths about Blake Swihart:
- He was actually off to a perfectly good start at the plate, touting a 100 wRC+ despite a sub-.700 OPS. Turns out, getting on base at a .391 clip is pretty important. And if anything, discipline was his area of greatest concern heading into the season. He's more-or-less proved himself a major league hitter dating back to last year. Maybe it's not 100% locked in, but it's close.
- He is not a finished product defensively, and it was showing some in the majors. Not really the missed pop-up, though those took center stage for many. More things like calling the inside fastball to Trumbo that followed. This is something he can learn in the minors--or a classroom for that matter--but it's much easier to put into practice with the level of advanced scouting reports you mostly get in the majors, and much easier to see results when it comes against good hitters.
- He was the starter. People will trot out the line that Vazquez was the starter and Swihart was just holding his place, but that stopped being true in the second half of 2015, and the start of 2016. A few games in Pawtucket were not the difference in convincing the Red Sox Vazquez is ready now when he wasn't on April 5th. Blake Swihart had the job, and lost it, whether for good reasons or bad.
A few truths about Christian Vazquez:
- His bat remains a question mark. He's been amazingly hot in Pawtucket to start the season, but he still has a 70 career wRC+ in the majors, and that's really what counts. There's hope, but this has to be viewed as a clear offensive downgrade.
- His glove is anything but. Vazquez is superlative defensively. He will catch that pop-up, and probably won't call that inside fastball. This is certainly an upgrade on this side of things.
- Christian Vazquez cannot save the rotation. Tonight's game, with Rick Porcello on the mound, is probably his best chance to do so. Porcello is not incapable of hitting his spots--though hanging a few can still be a problem--and if Vazquez can properly utilize his limited stuff, then he can be an effective pitcher for the Red Sox. The other four? Price is overwhelming as is, Wright is a knuckleballer who basically just needs someone to throw the ball back to him, and neither Kelly nor Buchholz can reliably adhere to a Vazquez game plan, no matter how perfect.
So what's the point of this, really? It just feels like a reactionary move. Like John Farrell is a kid just learning how to play rock - paper - scissors. The opponent beats him with rock? Rock always wins! Oh, wait, now it's paper? Paper always wins! Get beat because your young catching prospect makes a defensive mistake? Better ship him to Pawtucket and call up the glove-first guy!
And yet, Joe Kelly is still in the rotation. Wish they could get a bit more reactionary in that department. Which is to say: have reactions at all. After, say, 37 starts at a 4.82 ERA.
Swihart's not done in this town by any stretch, make no mistake. But this is a pretty crappy vote of no-confidence in a guy just six starts into the season. And the worst part is that it really does feel like this is all tied back to that one Trumbo at-bat that put him under the spotlight in the first place. And one at bat really should not be having that large an influence on decisions like this.