As has long been anticipated, something will have to give with regard to Boston’s catching situation between now and Opening Day. The Sox are carrying three catchers at the moment in Leon, Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart.
While the Boston organization managed to hang onto those three players for the entirety of the 2018 season, doing so more or less meant punting a roster spot. Swihart was so seldom used early on that he tallied all of 48 plate appearances through the season’s first two months.
A repeat of that approach has never seemed desirable. The precise resolution, though, remains unclear. Vazquez is projected to be the starter in Boston, and both Leon and Swihart are out of minor league options, making a trade or even just a straight release of Leon both plausible outcomes.
Leon, 30, struggled through an awful season at the plate in 2018, hitting just .177/.232/.279 through 288 PAs. His bat has continually declined since what now looks like a clear outlier campaign in 2016, but he’s regarded as a terrific defender in terms of limiting the running game, framing pitches, and managing a staff.
Leon agreed to a $2.475MM salary to avoid arbitration this winter. That may represent a palatable sum for a trade partner seeking a defensive-minded backup catcher, though it’s just barely shy of the deal Martin Maldonado signed few weeks back. Maldonado is also highly regarded behind the dish and is also a more accomplished (albeit still well-below-average) hitter.
Arbitration salaries aren’t fully guaranteed until Opening Day, though, so if the Sox were to move on, they’d only be on the hook for 45 days’ termination pay — a total of about $599K. To be clear, there’s no indication that the Sox have given serious thought to cutting Leon loose, but if they’re indeed planning on carrying just two catchers this winter (Vazquez and Swihart), that possibility would need to be considered if the trade route doesn’t bear fruit.