Should the Jays be in on Blake Swihart?

The Boson Red Sox are in flux right now, as the defending champions are currently sitting in a tie with the Blue Jays for last in the American League East with a 6-11 record. After a humiliating loss to the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday afternoon, the Red Sox designated catcher/outfielder Blake Swihart for assignment, opening room to recall Sandy Leon from Triple-A.

I generally wouldn’t do a post discussing a random player on the DFA wire, but Swihart has an interesting connection with the Blue Jays. He was selected with the 26th overall pick in the 2011 draft by the Red Sox back when Ben Cherington was the organization’s senior vice president and assistant general manager. Cherington, of course, is now the Blue Jays’ vice-president of baseball operations.

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Swihart, now 27 years old, appeared to be Boston’s catcher of the future but he never really panned out. The Red Sox were always more interested in using Leon and Christian Vasquez behind the plate as both players were viewed as being stronger defensively. That said, last season Swihart had similar catcher’s ERA to Leon’s, and, in a small sample size, he has a more defensive runs saved and more runners thrown out than Vasquez this season.

As Jon Tayler of Sports Illustrated suggests above, the Red Sox didn’t do an admirable job handling Swihart. A few years ago, Swihart was the third guy in a trio with Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts who were supposed to be the core of the Sox for years to come.

Rushing Swihart to the Majors in 2015 probably didn’t do wonders for his development. Swihart was drafted as a catcher out of high school in 2011, but he didn’t actually start playing the position exclusively until after he was drafted. When he was in high school, Swihart was a multi-position player who had most of his upside in his bat. With this kind of project, it would have made sense to either let Swihart work slowly through the system in order to actually learn how to be a catcher or just move him to a different position.

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After a very good 2014 season mostly in Double-A in which he slashed a .293/.241/.469 line, Swihart was rushed into the Major Leagues in the 2015 season as Vasquez underwent Tommy John surgery. Over 84 games with the Sox, Swihart slashed a .274/.319/.392 line and was worth 1.1 wins above replacement. In 2016 and 2017, Swihart bounced from the Major Leagues to the Minor Leagues, dealing with various injuries. Then, last season, he played 82 games with the Sox, slashing a pretty mediocre .229/.285/.328 line.

In sum, Swihart has bounced all over the place and hasn’t had a chance to refine his game behind the plate. He’s been used as a catcher, a corner outfielder, and a first baseman, but never have the Red Sox really given him a clear role with the organization since he got rushed up in 2015.

Though he’s 27 years old, Swihart is still an intriguing player with loads of talent. If handled properly, there could certainly be something here. Given the fact Ben Cherington is familiar with him and his upside, it makes quite a bit of sense for the Blue Jays to take a flier on Swihart. I don’t know if he’ll ever work out as a catcher, but there’s more upside in Swihart than, say, Socrates Brito.