Trading: The Astros acquired Cristian Vazquez from the Red Sox for 2B/3B/LF Enmanuel Valdez and Wilyer Abreu.
For weeks, everyone wondered if the Astros would chase Wilson Contreras to upgrade their attacking catcher, as Martin Maldonado is a defensive champion known for his ability to work with pitching staff — but also hits a .173 with a .239 OBP. Contreras is the number one bat catcher, and bringing him through mid-season was seen as a risk, so the Astros instead grabbed another defensive strut, but one with a better bat than Maldonado.
Below are the scores for both teams involved in the trade.
Although the Astros have done well this season, they entered Monday’s game with 90 points less than the Yankees, mostly due to a lack of production at first base, where Yuri Gurriel had had a low year, and at the catcher, where they had a ranking . 27th place in majors in OPS. Maldonado and his backups combined achieved .164/.232/.306. Overall, the Astros’ 7-8-9 hitters are ranked 21st in the OPS majors, so when adding Trey Mancini and now Vazquez, the Astros improved the bottom of the lineup.
The Astros absolutely love Maldonado’s preparation and calling, but Vazquez also comes with a solid defensive reputation and hits .282/.327/.432 with eight runs on his turf. Those numbers are above his career standards, but not in line with what he’s done in the past few seasons as his racket has improved with age. He’s a solid contact hitter and always has been, playing 138 games last season and 84 out of 103 for Boston this season, but perhaps entering into some kind of engagement with Maldonado.
You worry about upsetting this important relationship between pitcher and catch—but among Houston’s novices, only Framber Valdez has worked almost exclusively with Maldonado: Valdez: 19 with Maldonado, 1 with Jason Castro.
Justin Verlander: 12 starts with Maldonado, 7 with Jason Castro
Luis Garcia: 14 games with Maldonado, 4 with Castro
Jose Orchidi: 15 with Maldonado, 3 with Castro, 1 with Corey Lee
Christian Javier: 9 with Maldonado, 4 with Castro, 2 with Lee
Jake Odorizi: 5 with Maldonado, 4 with Lee, 3 with Castro
So we can guess that Maldonado remains some kind of personal catcher for Valdez while Vazquez will get the majority of the other games.
Although Vazquez realized the trade was possible, it was still a shock to someone who was originally drafted by the Red Sox in 2008 and helped them win the 2018 World Championship. He was actually in pre-match with the Red Sox – who is in Houston – and set to reach fifth in the line-up when he was called up, and according to reporters on the site, he looked “stunned,” shrugged his shoulders and said, “It’s business” as The Red Sox PR executive pulled him away. All he had to do was go to the home team’s club – having gone through the hitters’ meeting with the Red Sox.
Overall, it sounds like a good deal for the Astros, although it’s not without some risk of breaking up the chemistry that Maldonado had with the show’s crew.
For the Red Sox, this is a two-part deal in which they also traded loyalist Jake Diekman to the White Sox for catcher Reese McGuire, clearing a few payrolls from the books (Dickman owed $3.5 million in 2023, plus a $1 million buyout or $4 million in 2024) while getting Musk to replace Vazquez. McGuire has made .241/.289/.318 on 383 board appearances in the past two seasons with the Blue Jays and White Sox, with only one home run and not having enough OBP to make up for the lack of power. Consider the last two months of this season essentially the Red Sox experience for McGuire. They will see if they love him enough to run with him next season or if they will try another path.
As for the prospects from Houston, the Stat Valdez line is certainly interesting: .327/ .410/ .606 with 21 home runs between Double-A and Triple-A at 23 — so there’s some strength here though He’s listed at 5-foot-9. He has a 76 to 45 stroke-to-walk ratio in 82 games, so he’s drawing a few sprints without excessive batting. American baseball, in its mean update, had Valdez as Houston’s 12th candidate (in what is generally viewed as a poor system). He’s played second base, third base, and a little left field, and in the best case scenario, he’s billed as an offensive-minded second base option if Xander Bogaerts left in free agency and the Red Sox had to move Trevor Story to Shortstop, but his ultimate defensive position remains up in the air.
Abreu is a 23-year-old outfielder who hits .249/.399/.459 in Double-A with 15 home runs, 78 walks, and 108 strikes. That’s a lot of real three hits in his game, but he’s also 23-for-24 stealing rules and is considered good enough defensively to tackle a midfield. It’s an interesting pair of predictions. Certainly not high-ceilinged players, but both are close to the major league and could emerge as bench depth in 2023 and beyond. Given what the Red Sox has seen this year from the likes of Franchy Cordero, Jarren Durran and Jackie Bradley Jr. , improving the bottom of the list remains a clear priority.
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