Heading into camp, the number one biggest position of interest for the Red Sox was catcher, and it wasn’t particularly close. As we all know by now, Boston had three catchers — Christian Vázquez, Sandy León and Blake Swihart — who were all without minor-league options. They managed to keep the entire trio around for all of 2018, but they’ve made clear it’s not a realistic option for 2019. So, the spring has been about finding the best pair and then finding the best value for the odd man out. It seems Sandy León is the odd man out, and now they’re on to phase two of the plan. According to Buster Olney and Marly Rivera, both of ESPN, the Red Sox are actively discussing trade possibilities involving León.
The Red Sox are actively discussing possible trades of catcher Sandy Leon, @MarlyRiveraESPN and I have heard from sources.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) March 21, 2019
A lot of people are going to be happy about this decision, assuming it comes to fruition, as it means Blake Swihart will start the year as one of the two catchers. I would assume he’ll be the backup behind Christian Vázquez, but it’s still a bigger role than he’s had in recent years. The upside is certainly greater with Swihart, and it’s hard to argue he doesn’t have the best chance to provide value with the bat in his hands.
That being said, I’m still surprised this seems to be the way they are leaning. It’s not necessarily that I think it would be a bad decision — I think I’d keep León, but the arguments for both sides are compelling enough that I could be convinced either way depending on the day — but rather that it’s simply not what I expected. We all know how much the pitching staff has publicly praised León, with Rick Porcello calling him the best catcher he’s ever pitched to. My assumption was that they would lean towards defense at this position as well as keeping the pitchers in their comfort zone.
Ultimately, I don’t think the impact of this decision — again, assuming this is what is going to happen — will be all that great on the team. I am guessing Swihart impressed them with his defense this spring, but he’s still a significant step below León, which is certainly more about how good the latter is than how bad the former is. On the other hand, Swihart should be a better performer with the bat. All in all, it’s close to a wash of two near-replacement level players. That said, if they do trade León and the pitching gets off to a rough start, a lot of people are going to point to León’s absence as a reason why.