With just over a day left before the trade deadline, Red Sox catcher Christian Vázquez may prove to be the most valuable free agent-to-be on the Red Sox roster.
The 31-year-old is having an excellent year, hitting .282/.327/.432 in 84 games. He leads the big leagues in innings behind the plate over the last two years, and is considered a leader with a demonstrated ability to steward a pitching staff through the postseason to a title.
He’s also elite against big velocity, posting a .314 average this year against pitches of 95-plus m.p.h. — 10th among the 110 big leaguers who have seen at least 500 pitches in that range. Such a skill is of considerable value in the postseason, given the wealth of power arms that teams face.
Both the Astros and Mets are known to have engaged in substantive talks on Vázquez, who is earning $7 million this year on an option the Red Sox exercised on his original three-year, $13.3 million deal. The Guardians also are in the market for catching help, but it’s unclear whether they’d pursue a rental player.
One team that has engaged the Sox on the catcher balked at what it deemed “a heavier prospect return than expected,” though such dynamics have characterized most of the trade market to this point, helping to explain the limited number of trades.
The Mets have engaged the Sox about both Vázquez and J.D. Martinez, whose value likely is not as great as that of Vázquez, owing to the fact that he is owed $6.5 million-$7 million over the rest of the season and there are concerns about the health of his back and his decline in power.
Vázquez said Sunday that while he’d like to remain with the Red Sox, the team has not engaged in contract discussions with him this year. Even so, he made clear his hope that the Sox would keep their core players together rather than selling off parts in advance of the deadline.
“If we can stay together, I think we have a great chance [of reaching the playoffs],” Vázquez said. “We’re still here. We control what we can control. We’re here fighting together. We are family and we’re going to continue until we see what happens in these couple of days. We’re still here with this uniform and I hope we can stay here.”
Though the Sox continue to view themselves as contenders for a wild-card berth — they are currently 3½ games behind the Rays for the last spot — major league sources suggest that they have shown an increased willingness in recent days to move Vázquez and Nate Eovaldi, who will start against the Astros Monday night.
To date, however, the asking prices on those players (as well as Martinez) have exceeded what teams are willing to spend. But with Tuesday’s 6 p.m. deadline drawing ever nearer, movement in asking prices is expected soon.