It’s time for the Boston Red Sox to make the call down to Pawtucket for another prospect. That call would be for catcher Christian Vazquez.
The move will do two things. It will push A.J. Pierzynski out the door, and it will get Vazquez — the Red Sox catcher of the future — adjusted to the big leagues, allowing him to come out in 2015 guns blazing.
With the Red Sox looking less and less like a playoff team, there’s a number of players who serve no purpose on the club based off the changed circumstances. Pierzynski is one of those players. A veteran catcher who can still play every day, there’s a number of suitors for the 37-year-old catcher playing on a one-year deal. His role in Boston may be null, but he can be the missing piece for a contending club.
If the Red Sox trade Pierzynski and fall further out of contention, it won’t be because Ben Cherington dealt the veteran catcher away. Likewise, if the Red Sox make a run, Pierzysnki’s bearing on it won’t loom large.
So it fits in perfect with what should be Cherington’s trade deadline approach given the climate of mediocrity throughout the American League, particularly in the division the Red Sox play in. Trade away small parts that would help a potential World Series contender while getting good return, yet not blowing up the ship.
In trading Pierzynski, it clears the way for Vazquez to break into the majors. Deemed the catcher of the future, the 23-year-old is the catching-equivalent of a five-tool player. Someone who can hit, call a good game, handle a pitching staff, throw, and take care of the defensive side of catching (i.e. blocking the plate, framing pitches, etc.).
Through 62 games with Triple A Pawtucket in 2014, Vazquez is hitting .275 with a .715 OPS, 19 extra base hits, three home runs and 19 RBI. Defensively he’s made just two errors in 424 chances while gunning down 18 of the 46 stolen base attempts against him, a 39 percent success rate. The 2014 PawSox pitching staff ranks third in the International League with a 3.52 ERA in 85 games, 48 of which Vazquez has caught.
Talking on ceilings, the Puerto Rican backstop has been compared with St. Louis Cardinals and fellow countryman catcher Yadier Molina.
The Cardinals development of Molina consisted of bringing up the catcher in June 2004. The then 21-year-old split time with veteran catcher Mike Matheny, getting into 51 games and learning the game under his future manager before taking over the role full-time in 2005. In season 10 on the job, Molina is a five-time All-Star and Gold Glove-winner, and is lauded as the best catcher in the MLB.
The Red Sox should take a similar approach with Vazquez. Call him up to the major leagues and split the reps with veteran catcher David Ross, while Ross shows the young catcher the ropes, then have Vazquez ready to go come 2015.
Cherington’s job in July needs to be more focused on putting the team in better position for 2015 and beyond than throwing in the towel on the 2014 season.
Trading away Pierzynski and calling up Vazquez would do just that.