Blake Swihart, whom was drafted in the first round of the 2011 June Amateur Draft back in 2011 by the Boston Red Sox, has asked the team for a trade. The 26-year-old switch hitter is batting just .138 this season while playing in just 15 of the first 42 games so far this season. Swihart is hoping to return to form after suffering a horrible ankle injury back in 2016 that caused him to miss the entire season. He spent most of 2017 in Pawtucket, the Red Sox’ Triple-A affiliate, where he hit just .187 in 62 games with the minor-league club.
Although the last few years have not gone his way, Swihart once showed a lot of promise when he made his Major League Baseball debut back in 2o15. He played in 84 games his rookie year, slashing .274/.319/.392 with five home runs and 18 extra-base hits. Swihart also had extra value because he was producing from the catcher position, something that is extremely hard to find throughout the league.
However, as mentioned earlier, Swihart suffered a severe ankle injury in 2016 while playing in left field for the Red Sox. The Sox wanted to experiment with moving Swihart to left field in order to allow Christian Vazquez, whom had just returned from having Tommy John surgery, to catch behind the plate every day. The Red Sox have always viewed Vazquez as the superior catcher, defensively speaking, compared to Swihart.
The ankle injury halted Swihart’s progress significantly. Not only did he miss all of 2016 but he seemed incapable of regaining his form after his struggles in Triple-A during the 2017 season. The Red Sox had a big decision in front of them at the start of this season: either keep him on the 25-man active roster or let him pass through waivers, since all of his options had been used up. There is little doubt that Swihart would have been claimed off waivers had the Red Sox cut him from the roster after spring training. The team opted for the more prudent move by keeping him on the 25-man roster as a utility bench player.
The Red Sox have failed to define a role for Swihart on the team so far this year. He has only played in 15 games this season and none of them have been at the catcher position. Swihart has played seven games at designated hitter, six games in the outfield, and two games at first base. The Red Sox, for whatever reason, clearly do not want Swihart playing catcher, which has been his natural position his entire career.Blake Swihart and his agent have asked for a trade from Boston. Here's why, and how the @RedSox can sort things out.Click To Tweet
However, it may behoove the Red Sox to rethink their reluctance to play him at the catcher position. So far this season the Red Sox regular catchers, Christian Vazquez and Sandy Leon, are hitting for a combined .174 batting average, which is third worst from the catcher position in all of Major League Baseball behind only the New York Mets and Texas Rangers.
The Red Sox look highly upon Vazquez for his defense behind the plate, but even that has declined at the start of the 2018 season. Vazquez has thrown out just 21% of runners attempting to steal and has allowed 2 passed balls, while his teammate, Sandy Leon, has failed to throw out any runners at all so far this season. Leon is 0-for-6 on attempting to catch runners stealing. Yet, despite the clear and obvious struggles of the current catching tandem, the Red Sox have shown no desire to give Swihart the chance to take over the role.
With Dustin Pedroia set to return to the Red Sox roster soon, and with the team in desperate need of bullpen help, trading Blake Swihart seems like an inevitability at this point. There are several potential landing spots for Swihart that the Red Sox can look to.
The Reds are a prime candidate for a young player like Blake Swihart, and they could give him a great opportunity to return to his natural position at catcher. After trading Devin Mesoraco to the New York Mets in exchange for Matt Harvey the Reds find themselves in need of help at the catcher position. The Reds also have some intriguing bullpen arms that the Red Sox may covet as part of a potential deal.
Veteran relievers such as Jared Hughes and David Hernandez may appeal to the Red Sox to help bolster their struggling bullpen. The Reds are in full rebuild/tank mode so Swihart would receive plenty of playing time, and he would likely benefit from playing at Great American Ballpark, which is extremely hitter-friendly due to its power alleys to right and left field.
Chicago White Sox
The Chicago White Sox are another team that is currently rebuilding and could be a good landing spot for Blake Swihart. Wellington Castillo is currently the starting catcher there with Omar Narvaez serving as the team’s backup catcher. Castillo has performed well but Narvaez is struggling mightily both at the plate and behind the plate defensively.
White Sox General Manager Rick Hahn, has had his eyes on Swihart for many years as his name was brought up back in 2016 when the two teams were discussing a trade for Chris Sale. Swihart would provide versatility to a struggling White Sox club, while the Red Sox could benefit by acquiring a bullpen piece such as Joakim Soria or Nate Jones in return.
It might be a stretch for a contending team such as the Washington Nationals to give up bullpen arms for a bench player, but it’s an avenue worth exploring for the Red Sox. The Nationals just recently placed Matt Wieters on the disabled list with a hamstring injury and could be looking for extra help at the catcher position. The Nationals also have plenty of bullpen arms to spare and could be convinced to deal a veteran reliever such as Shawn Kelley or Ryan Madson in exchange for Blake Swihart.
The Red Sox have approximately two weeks to figure out what to do with Blake Swihart. Pedroia, is due to come off the disabled list at the end of the month and the Red Sox will need to make room for him on the roster. The most sensible permutation of the Red Sox bench would be Brock Holt, Eduardo Nunez, Sandy Leon, and Jackie Bradley Jr., whom may have finally lost his spot in the starting lineup due to his poor start to the season. Thus, there is no room for Swihart on the Sox bench if they insist on keeping him out of the catching rotation.
It was only a matter of time before Swihart sought a change of scenery in order to gain more playing time. Hopefully the Red Sox can find a trade scenario that benefits both the team and Blake Swihart, who deserves a chance to play on a regular basis.