Catcher/outfielder Blake Swihart went unclaimed on waivers after being designated for assignment by the Diamondbacks and accepted an outright assignment to Triple-A Reno, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reports (via Twitter).
Swihart, 27, has enough service time that he could’ve rejected the assignment, but doing so would’ve meant forfeiting the remainder of this season’s $910K big league salary. He’ll now remain with the Diamondbacks through season’s end, but he’ll quite likely elect free agency this offseason, as is his right as a player with three-plus years of service who has been outrighted off the 40-man roster.
It wasn’t long ago that Swihart was widely considered to be among the game’s elite prospects. Prior to the 2015 season, each of MLB.com, Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus and ESPN ranked him among the game’s top 20 overall farmhands — hardly a surprise given his status as a former first-round pick who hit .293/.341/.469 in 110 games between Double-A and Triple-A as a 22-year-old in 2014.
Swihart’s bat didn’t impress much in his 2015 MLB debut, however, as he batted just .274/.319/.392 through 309 trips to the plate. More concerning, though, were the escalating questions about his defensive abilities (or lack thereof) behind the dish. The Red Sox organization began playing Swihart in left field and at first base, but he continued to work with coaches and instructors to hone his defensive chops at catcher.
Unfortunately, those concerns never really dissipated, and his sparse use in 2018 surely didn’t help matters. The Red Sox were loath to lose Swihart, who was at that point out of minor league options, but they were also reluctant to commit to him as a regular catching option. As such, Boston carried both Christian Vazquez and light-hitting Sandy Leon to open the 2018 campaign, relegating Swihart to a seldom-used third catcher and infielder/outfielder. Swihart received virtually no playing time early in the season and had tallied fewer than 100 plate appearances by the time the All-Star break rolled around. That the Red Sox effectively played the 2018 season with a 24-man roster makes last year’s World Series win all the more impressive, but Swihart’s nonexistent role surely didn’t do him any favors.
With Arizona, Swihart was used exclusively as a corner outfielder and first baseman, tallying just 70 trips to the plate over the life of 31 games in a similarly minimal role. The fact that he went unclaimed on waivers when he’s earning less than $1MM and could’ve been controlled through the 2022 season via arbitration doesn’t bode well for his chances of landing a big league contract this winter. For now, though, he’ll try to open some eyes at Triple-A in an effort to work his way back onto the Diamondbacks’ 40-man roster before season’s end.