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2023 in Review: Reese McGuire

The backup catcher mostly did what he came to do—but that insane baserunning error really sticks in our craw.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at San Diego Padres David Frerker-USA TODAY Sports

2023 In One Sentence

Reese McGuire was valuable in backing up Connor Wong, despite losing time to injury and committing a Little League baserunning mistake that cost the Red Sox a game.

The Positives

First and foremost, he made only one defensive error in 2023, which should be celebrated as a bright spot in our team’s ridiculously spongy defense. His 2023 season was decent enough compared to his career numbers, as well as the standards to which we hold catchers across the league. We don’t expect monster production from catchers, and McGuire fits in there. He posted a .267/.310/.358 slash line, one home run, 16 RBIs, with a .668 OPS.

He served as backup to Connor Wong but at times (like much of September) he went nearly one-for-one with Wong, making starts and providing rest. McGuire’s value is highest here: his ability to relieve Connor Wong of some of the wear and tear of daily life at the catcher’s position.

After missing about six weeks over the summer with a strained oblique, McGuire returned to the lineup with a bang, smacking a solo home run as well as a sacrifice fly in his first game back.

Let’s not forget that he had two stolen bases on the year; good for him and his seventeenth-percentile sprint speed. Those two stolen bases represent his career best.

The Negatives

As mentioned above, McGuire missed significant time after straining his right oblique. This injury, and a lesser one—his thumb was bruised as he took warmup pitches from Tanner Houck at end of September—made him good for only 72 games this season.

It’s possible that his 2023 will be remembered for an absolutely awful baserunning mistake on August 5 against the Blue Jays. McGuire was on second and incorrectly judged a Connor Wong fly ball as a home run; he pointed to the sky and began to trot accordingly, thinking the Sox had walked off the game. Notably, he neglected to track the ball behind him. To be fair, that sucker did travel, and was caught by Kevin Kiermaier after a small jump at the base of the Monster in left-center. Replays seem to show McGuire going with his first impression and perhaps being convinced by watching Wong watch the ball. That’s some Little League nonsense right there. He had absolutely no chance of getting back to second base where he belonged, and was thrown out to end the game and seal the loss. Though some blamed since-fired Carlos Febles, who was gesturing from the third-base line (I don’t think he was waving McGuire home, but communicating with the runner at first), this was a real bad look for McGuire.

Though this might be attributable to his injury, a couple of McGuire’s stats were notably higher than they’ve been in his career (barring the anomaly that was 2020 and typical rookie-season outlier stats). His strikeout rate of 25.7% is higher than it’s ever been, other than his rookie season. His ground-ball rate is way up at 51.8% after hovering around 36% for most of his career.

Best Game Or Moment

Let’s go with McGuire’s RBI triple against the Orioles in September. Not only is rare enough to see a catcher with a triple, but he never had to slide, and he did it on the first pitch.

The Big Question/2024 and Beyond

Before the non-tender deadline in November, Sports Illustrated questioned McGuire’s future with the Sox, calling him a candidate not to receive a contract. We now know that’s not true, and although I wouldn’t have been terribly sorry to see him go, I think the Sox have much bigger things to worry about (say it with me: pitching and second base). The Sox are right to focus on the big needs instead of fiddling around the margins.

With catcher-of-the-future Kyle Teel rapidly advancing through the minors in 2023, most recently playing with AA Portland, we might expect that he reaches the big leagues in 2024, but probably not until later in the season. McGuire is a more-than-serviceable backup option at catcher until Teel is ready.