For the first time since the 2016-17 off-season, Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez will suit up for his home island of Puerto Rico this winter.
Vazquez will play for Cangrejeros de Santurce of the Puerto Rican Winter League and is expected to make his season debut on Wednesday, according to Edwin Hernández Jr. on Twitter.
The 31-year-old backstop was born and raised in Puerto Rico and was drafted by the Red Sox in 2008 out of the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy in Gurabo. This will mark his seventh season playing in the Liga de Béisbol Profesional Roberto Clemente and his first in five years.
As alluded to by SoxProspects.com’s Chris Hatfield, established big-league veterans typically do not participate in winter ball, which makes it seem likely that someone of Vazquez’s stature is there to get in some reps as a designated hitter before the start of spring training.
Besides Vazquez, the Red Sox have had four other players on their 40-man roster participate in winter ball this year. Right-handers Kutter Crawford and Phillips Valdez have pitched for Estrellas Orientales of the Dominican League, outfield prospect Jeisson Rosario has appeared in one game for Tigres Del Licey of the Dominican League, and infielder Jonathan Arauz has been playing in Panama.
On the flip side of that, first baseman/outfielder Franchy Cordero lost his spot on Boston’s 40-man roster in October, but has been playing for Leones del Escogido of the Dominican League throughout the off-season.
As Vazquez prepares to make his 2021 debut for Santurce on Wednesday, it is worth mentioning just how important the 2022 season should be for him. The right-handed hitter is coming off a down year in which he batted .258/.308/.352 with 23 doubles, one triple, six home runs, 49 RBIs, 51 runs scored, eight stolen bases, 33 walks, and 84 strikeouts over 138 games spanning 498 plate appearances.
Despite those underwhelming numbers, the Red Sox still picked up Vazquez’s $7 million club option for 2022, though there was reportedly some internal debate before the final decision was made.
With that being said, it was hinted at by MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo last week that Boston could “make a surprising move to upgrade at catcher — and add a controllable player — sooner rather than later.”
Until then, though, Vazquez and backup Kevin Plawecki figure to be the Sox’ top two catching options heading into 2022 followed by prospects Connor Wong and Ronaldo Hernandez.
(Picture of Christian Vazquez: Winslow Townson/Getty Images)