By Tony Massarotti, 98.5 The Sports Hub
Blake Swihart was drafted in the first round of the 2011 draft, 26th overall, and by 2014 he was batting .300 with an .840 OPS at Double-A Portland. He was in the majors a year later, when he batted .274 as a 23-year-old in 2015, when the Red Sox started whispering that they considered him to be a catcher with the rare athleticism of someone like San Francisco Giants standout Buster Posey.
Now, Swihart wants a trade for a very simple reason: he’s tired of the Red Sox screwing up his development.
And he’s right.
Let’s review the facts here. Since being drafted, the Red Sox have hyped Swihart as a catcher, moved him to left field (where he suffered a major ankle injury), put him back behind the plate (where he got hurt again), then repeatedly toyed with the idea of making him an infielder. At the moment, the Red Sox are asking him to do all three.
Maybe this is all as simple as Swihart being the classic player without a position – good stick, no glove – but the sad truth now is that we’ll never know, because the Red Sox have jerked this kid around six ways to Sunday.
If you ask me, at the very least, Swihart could have been a player akin to someone like former catcher-turned-outfielder/infielder B.J. Surhoff.
Meanwhile, there is also this: the Red Sox continue to resist giving Swihart at-bats despite the chance to play him a catcher or in left field, the latter of which could be accommodated by moving Andrew Benintendi to center and benching the offensively useless Jackie Bradley. Overall, the Red Sox currently rank dead last in the majors in OPS at catcher and, according to Fangraphs, 25th in defensive runs saved at that position.
Don’t believe it? Have a look. Offense from catcher, sorted by OPS:
Defense at catcher, sorted by defensive runs saved:
At the moment, we all know why Swihart is on the major league roster. The Red Sox couldn’t send him to the minors without exposing him to waivers and he’s too good to release. Beyond that, it was too early to trade him because the Red Sox’ needs at the July 31 trading deadline might be totally different than what they are now.
Given his offensive potential, Swihart currently has as much (or more) trade value than anyone other “prospect” in the Red Sox system, now a wasteland thanks to Dave Dombrowski’s succession of trades. There was a season-ending injury to pitching prospect Jay Groome. There was the wildly predictable PED suspension of infielder Michael Chavis, whom Dombrowski should have traded over the winter.
Ultimately, can Swihart play? Hell if I know. Hell if anyone does. But that’s hardly the point. The point is that the Red Sox had a talented asset that they have completely mismanaged on multiple levels. Even if they would have ended up trading Swihart in the first place, they should have gotten more for Swihart than they will get now.
Plain and simple, they’ve already blown it.
And if I were Blake Swihart, I wouldn’t want them messing with me anyone, either.
You can hear Mazz weekdays from 2-6 p.m. EST on the Felger & Massarotti program, and from 6-7 p.m. on The Baseball Reporters. Follow him on Twitter @TonyMassarotti.