Well, how’s this for a shocking roster move from a struggling team on a Tuesday morning. Heading into the season, perhaps the biggest storyline for the Red Sox roster was what pair of catchers the team was going to keep between Christian Vázquez, Blake Swihart and Sandy León. As we know now, they opted to hold on to the first two and designated the latter for assignment. León cleared waivers and opted to stay in Pawtucket. His stay there would not last very long. As first reported by Evan Drellich, Swihart was designated for assignment by the Red Sox on Tuesday.
Sources: The Red Sox have DFA'd catcher Blake Swihart. He’s effectively gone, presuming he won’t pass waivers. Stunning move early in the season for a struggling team.— Evan Drellich (@EvanDrellich) April 16, 2019
Jon Heyman was the first to report Sandy León would be taking his spot on the active roster.
Sources: Sandy Leon is bring called up by Red Sox. As @EvanDrellich reported, swihart is a dfa— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) April 16, 2019
So, yeah. Wow. My gut reaction when this news first broke was that this was an uncharacteristically hasty move by an organization that generally sticks to its guns when it makes a decision. Just a few weeks ago, as I said, they decided that León’s defensive qualifications weren’t enough to keep him to start the year. Now, with the team struggling out of the gate and the pitching looking particularly bad, they’ve made the switch. From the outside, it certainly seems like a panic move.
That being said, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad decision. If they truly believe they misplayed the roster at the beginning of the year and León is going to be the guy to get the pitching back on track, there is no use in waiting. Swihart is certainly the best offensive player of this catching trio, but even with improvements behind the plate he is not as trusted by the pitching as León. They will miss the offense, of course, but if the rest of the lineup hits like it should they can get by.
Ultimately, I don’t really like the idea of flip-flopping on this kind of decision just three weeks in. As I said numerous times before the season started, there was a solid argument for choosing either of León or Swihart and I would have had a hard time being upset about it either way. It’s the quick change that makes me a bit uneasy. Again, though, if this does indeed turn the pitching staff around — and if/when that does happen no one will really know how much of it is León and how much is just regression back to the mean that was due to happen anyway — it’s something the team desperately needs right now before they bury themselves even further down in the standings. I’ll have more on this move in the morning after some time to think about it more.
This move was clearly the big one, but the Red Sox did make a couple of other announcements as well. We learned last night that Marcus Walden had been optioned back down to Pawtucket, but there was no corresponding move announced at the time. That has since been announced, with Erasmo Ramírez joining the 40-man roster and taking a spot in the bullpen. The righty, a minor-league signing this past winter, has experience as both a reliever and a starter and should be ready to work as a long reliever if the need arises.
In addition to that, Brock Holt will start a rehab appearance in Pawtucket tonight. The utility infielder is working his way back from a scratched cornea. The hope is that he’ll be ready to return this weekend for the series in Tampa Bay, at which point a pitcher will be sent down.