Red Sox’ decision to pick up Christian Vázquez’s 2022 team option was ‘not a no-brainer’, per report

The Red Sox may have exercised Christian Vazquez’s club option for the 2022 season back in November, but it apparently was not a simple decision for the team to make.

As part of the three-year, $13.35 million contract extension Vazquez signed with the Sox before the 2018 season, there was a team option attached for a potential fourth year in 2022.

The value of that option was dependent on the number of plate appearances Vazquez accrued during the 2020 and 2021 campaigns. Since he fell short of the threshold he needed to reach, the veteran catcher’s option for 2022 decreased from $8 million to $7 million.

Coming off a season 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 (498 plate appearances) while leading all big-league backstops in innings caught (1,051 1/3), the Red Sox were put in a position where they had to decide if they wanted Vazquez back for $7 million.

Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. ultimately decided on having Vazquez return for 2022, but that resolution may not have been reached unanimously within the organization.

According to MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, “sources indicate the decision to pick up Vázquez’s $7 million option was not a no-brainer, and that there was internal debate over whether he was worth that salary after a down year in 2021.”

The idea that Boston would decline Vazquez’s option and allow the 31-year-old to become a free agent can be backed up by a recent report from the Miami Herlad which states that the Red Sox made an offer “and at one point thought they had a deal” to acquire Gold Glove Catcher Jacob Stallings from the Pirates.

Stallings, who was dealt from the Marlins to the Pirates in late November, is slightly older than Vazquez as he turns 32 next week. He was also the best catcher in baseball this season when it comes to Defensive Runs Saved (21) and is under team control through the end of the 2024 season.

Because of the Sox’ reported interest in a controllable backstop such as Stallings, Cotillo writes that it would not be surprising if “the Red Sox make a surprising move to upgrade at catcher — and add a controllable player — sooner rather than later.”

At present, the Red Sox have four catchers on their 40-man roster between Vazquez, Kevin Plawecki, and prospects like Connor Wong and Ronaldo Hernandez.

Although Vazquez and Plawecki are seemingly locked in to begin 2022 as Boston’s top two catchers with Wong and Hernandez waiting in the wings at Triple-A Worcester, the expectation seems to be that Bloom and his staff are not done adding.

Once the Major League Baseball lockout ends and the transaction freeze is lifted, it appears as though the Red Sox will continue to explore upgrading at catcher. And while the free-agent market may be decimated in that department, the trade market certainly is not.

The Padres, as noted by Cotillo, also have four catchers on their 40-man roster in Jorge Alfaro, Luis Campusano, Victor Caratini, and Austin Nola. The Athletics, who are expected to tear down their roster once the lockout is lifted, represent another intriguing match since they could offer Sean Murphy.

Murphy, 27, won the Gold Glove Award for American League catchers this season and is not slated to hit free agency until after 2025. His asking price would presumably be high, but it could be something worth exploring for the Red Sox.

(Picture of Christian Vazquez: Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)

Red Sox ‘thought they had a deal’ in place for Jacob Stallings before Pirates traded veteran catcher to Marlins, per report

Before trading him to the Marlins earlier this week, the Pirates nearly traded catcher Jacob Stallings to the Red Sox, according to the Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson and Craig Mish.

Per Jackson and Mish, the Red Sox made an offer to the Pirates for Stallings “and and at one point thought they had a deal. But the Marlins landed him by including pitching prospect Kyle Nicolas in their bid, along with pitcher Zach Thompson and outfield prospect Connor Scott.”

Stallings, who turns 32 later this month, was among the top defensive backstops in baseball this year en route to taking home his first career Gold Glove Award. He threw out 12 of the 57 base runners who attempted to steal against him while leading all big-league catchers in defensive runs saved with 21.

In addition to what he did behind the plate, the right-handed hitter slashed .246/.335/.369 (95 wRC+) with 20 doubles, one triple, eight home runs, 53 RBIs, 38 runs scored, 49 walks, and 85 strikeouts over 112 games (427 plate appearances) with Pittsburgh in 2021.

At the onset of the off-season, Stallings became an attractive option for clubs looking for quality catching since he is under club control through 2024, was projected by MLB Trade Rumors to earn $2.6 million in arbitration, and was arguably better than any free agent catcher on the open market.

The Marlins ultimately pounced on Stallings by swinging a trade with the Pirates on Monday — after they had previously failed to pry him away from Pittsburgh at the trade deadline.

When speaking with reporters on Wednesday, Pirates general manager Ben Cherington indicated that the decision to move Stallings came about quickly.

“There certainly was never a timeline up until probably 24 hours before it happened,” Cherington said. “Our full expectation was that [Stallings] would be a Pirate going forward, but, you know, these things sometimes come together quickly. In this case, it did.”

That the Red Sox may have been among the teams other than the Marlins who inquired on Stallings is certainly interesting. Within the last month, Boston has picked up Christian Vazquez’s $7 million club option and signed Kevin Plawecki to a one-year, $2.25 million deal for the 2022 season.

With veteran backstops such as Vazquez and Plawecki already locked up for 2022 and prospects such as Connor Wong and Ronaldo Hernandez waiting in the wings on the 40-man roster, the Red Sox likely would have been looking at moving one of the four aforementioned names were they to have acquired Stallings.

That being said — after the Pirates sweetened their offer by adding Nicolas — it presumably would have taken additional prospects for Boston to land Stallings, which may have led chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom to take the Sox’ offer off the table altogether.

(Picture of Jacob Stallings: Joe Sargent/Getty Images)