With the trade deadline looming, Chaim Bloom has been reported to be extremely active in trade talks, already completing the first big trade of the year in dealing Brandon Workman to the Phillies, along with Heath Hembree, this past Friday. There’s been rumors about potentially anyone being on the table, including stars like Xander Bogaerts and J.D. Martinez. A player I would like to see the Red Sox move on from is catcher Christian Vázquez.
Vázquez got off to a sizzling start at the plate this year, hitting four home runs in his first five games. He was looking like one of the top hitting catchers in the game, and was talked about as a potential franchise cornerstone behind the dish. However, since his two-homer game against the Mets on July 30th, he has been nothing short of abysmal. Over this three-and-a-half week stretch, Vázquez has posted a wRC+ of 29, just two extra base hits, and a miniscule 0.1 BB/K ratio, thanks to a strikeout rate over 30 percent.
While I don’t believe this stretch is indicative of his true talent at the plate, there are certainly reasons to be worried. So far this season, Vázquez’s swing rate at pitches outside of the zone, contact rate on pitches in the zone, and swinging strike rate are all significantly worse than his career average in those categories. These factors have contributed to a 28.9% strikeout rate, by far the worst of his career. In addition, his exit velocity is way down from last year, and his expected wOBA (an all-encompassing offensive stat on an OBP scale) is just .249. That puts the catcher in the bottom 2% of the league.
Now despite these red flags, Vazquez is still valuable. Last year, he finished with a 102 wRC+, compared to a league average of 85 for catchers. Even with his struggles this year, his wRC+ is still sitting right around the catcher average. He is also a solid framer and defender, and provides value as an everyday catcher – he’s sat just five times this year. On top of all that, his contract is quite team friendly; he’s making just $4.2 million this year and he’s under team control through 2022.
I love the 2018 championship team and hate to see any of them go, but Vázquez’s value might be at its highest thanks to a good hitting year in 2019, a fine start in 2020 with a still-small sample size, and an enticing contract. I believe his 2019 season was more of an outlier than a breakout season, and his underlying metrics this year seem to be pointing to that as well. If Bloom can net a B-level prospect in a Vazquez swap, I’d like to see him pull the trigger.