9:05am: The Red Sox announced that they have acquired Leon from the Nationals in exchange for cash considerations. In order to clear a spot on the 40-man roster, Vazquez has been placed on the 60-day disabled list with a sprained right elbow.
7:05am: Catcher Sandy Leon tells James Wagner of the Washington Post (Twitter link) that he has been traded to the Red Sox. The 26-year-old Leon was out of options and unlikely to break camp with the Nationals, and the Sox have a need behind the plate with Christian Vazquez’s immediate future uncertain as he deals with an elbow injury.
Leon, a switch-hitter, has played sparingly over the past three seasons, totaling 107 plate appearances in the Major Leagues and hitting just .189/.280/.253 in that extremely small sample. Leon’s track record in Triple-A — a .257/.358/.414 triple slash — is more impressive, but it, too, has come in a small sample of just 257 PA. Overall, Leon is a .236/.324/.329 hitter in the Minors, but he’s been a dominant force behind the plate when protecting against the running game, as he’s gunned down 45 percent of base stealers in his Minor League career.
Vazquez is slated to meet with Dr. James Andrews this week after an MRI has led to speculation that he could require Tommy John surgery. The move would be a significant blow to the Sox and devastating news for Vazquez, who was in line to see significant time behind the plate this year. Boston has already acquired Ryan Hanigan this winter, and he figures to receive the bulk of the playing time behind the dish.
The wild card in Boston’s catching situation is top prospect Blake Swihart, whose name has continually surfaced in Cole Hamels trade rumors. However, the Sox have steadfastly refused to consider trading Swihart, who is regarded as a Top 20 prospect in the game. Swihart batted a combined .293/.341/.469 between Double-A and Triple-A last season, and he’s had an excellent spring, hitting .296/.345/.444. Some have speculated that the 23-year-old could break camp with the club if Vazquez has a serious enough injury, but the addition of Leon gives the Red Sox the ability to give Swihart a bit more time to develop in the Minors if they wish. Swihart played just 18 games at the Triple-A level last season, so it would be understandable if Boston was yet uncertain about rushing their prized prospect to the Major Leagues.