Jake Elmslie –Sports Editor
April is not the time to panic in Major League Baseball and yet the Boston Red Sox after a less than auspicious start to their season have opted to put emotion over reason.
On Tuesday, the Red Sox designated long time enigma Blake Swihart for assignment to the minor leagues, a decision that opens the door to and almost ensures that a different team will claim Swihart for their own roster at the cost of absolutely nothing. The team has made this move in order to bring Sandy Leon a former mainstay of the major league back onto the big league team after opting to have him open the season with the Triple A Pawtucket Red Sox.
The notion of choosing to carry Leon over Swihart is in itself a walk back from a decision the team made barely a month ago at the conclusion of spring training. President of Baseball Operations Dave Dumbroski made it clear from the onset of spring training that the team was only planning on carrying two catchers as opposed to the three they had carried during the 2018-2019 world series season. The team of course wound up airing on the side of the versatility and upside at the plate offered by Swihart over the defensive acumen of Leon.
The issue with the move to walk away from Swihart has very little to do with either him or Leon as players but rather the optics of the decision. Firstly it is very easy to look at a Red Sox team that has clearly not had the start to the season they envisioned and characterize any early mulligans on preseason roster moves as a byproduct of panic. Secondly one has to wonder if this move is almost exclusively being made in an attempt to placate the pitching staff.
It is no secret to anyone who understands numbers that the Red Sox starting rotation has fallen biblically short of expectations. The team that intended to build itself around its starting pitching currently boasts four starters with an earned run average over six and two exceeding even that mark with ERA’s well over eight. It is also no secret that the pitchers on this teams staff love having Leon behind the plate, with many of them having sung his praise in the past. One can easily extrapolate from this information that Dumbrowski made the decision to bring up Leon in an attempt to make the pitching staff more comfortable. In the process of this pursuit though he has lost the team an asset in the 27 year old Swihart. It is not absurd to suggest that a team that has invested over 100 million dollars in their starting pitching for this season alone should not need to hemorrhage assets to effectively add five grown men’s blankey to the roster or if this reality is unavoidable it is not unfair to question if that money could have been spent better in the first place.
Blake Swihart was not destined to be some essential member of the Red Sox core however his career in the Boston system stands as a clinic in mismanaging an asset. From development to designation the Red Sox failed with this player and now can only hope to learn from their mistakes.