The Boston Red Sox’s recent decision-making has been magnified during the 2022 World Series.
First, Kyle Schwarber’s performance (and overall energy) for the Philadelphia Phillies — most notably his mammoth home run in Game 3 — reignited the conversation over whether the Red Sox should have re-signed him last offseason and how Boston plans to proceed with its designated-hitter/first-base situation in 2023 and beyond.
Then, on Wednesday night, Christian Vázquez — making his first start of this year’s Fall Classic — caught a combined no-hitter as the Houston Astros evened the best-of-seven series at two games apiece, a historic effort that raises questions about whether the Red Sox made the right move by dealing him at the Major League Baseball trade deadline and whether Boston should consider bringing back the veteran backstop this winter.
“He’s an outstanding catcher. He calls a good game. He’s been in this arena before with the Red Sox,” Astros manager Dusty Baker told reporters after the Astros’ 5-0 win in Game 4 at Citizens Bank Park.
Vázquez was a deadline casualty as the Red Sox attempted to straddle the line between buying and selling in hopes of making a late playoff push. The trade wasn’t necessarily popular in the clubhouse — Vázquez, a homegrown product, had been with the organization for 14 years — but it was sensible in that the 32-year-old is set to become a free agent and Houston offered a couple of near-MLB ready prospects to bolster Boston’s pipeline.
We often hear “baseball is a business,” and this was, at its core, a business decision aimed toward extracting value for an outgoing asset, with the biggest risk being the possible residual effect on those still listed on the Red Sox’s depth chart, including shortstop Xander Bogaerts, Vázquez’s close friend who can opt out of his contract and test the open market after the World Series. Obviously, we can’t pooh-pooh the intangible human element. But no one will complain, from a Red Sox perspective, if either Enmanuel Valdez or Wilyer Abreu carves out a meaningful role for Boston in due time.
Alas, it’s the second question — should the Red Sox consider a Vázquez reunion? — that Boston must seriously contemplate while plotting its path forward. Because while the catching tandem of Reese McGuire and Connor Wong proved capable down the stretch, the reality is the Red Sox were lodged in rather meaningless games by that point and it’s therefore difficult to glean much from the sample size.
Solidifying a plan behind the plate absolutely is on the Red Sox’s offseason to-do list. Signing longtime Chicago Cubs cornerstone Willson Contreras or trading for Sean Murphy of the Oakland Athletics certainly would move the needle and provide a top-level long-term solution. But Vázquez lingers in the background as a more cost-effective second-tier option with a proven track record and innate familiarity with the franchise. That the sides ended on good terms — Vázquez acknowledged this postseason the door remains open for a return to Boston — clearly prolongs the discussion.
And moments like Wednesday — with Vázquez front and center for a tremendous pitching display on baseball’s biggest stage — only intensify the debate.