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Tomase: Making sense of Vazquez, Pham, Diekman deals as Red Sox begin overhaul

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Rapid reaction to the news that the Red Sox have traded starting catcher Christian Vazquez to the Astros while also nearing a deal for Reds outfielder Tommy Pham and White Sox catcher Reese McGuire...

First off, this had to happen, and there should be more moves like it before Tuesday's MLB trade deadline. The Red Sox are no World Series threat and they're in the unique position of recognizing this fact with a half dozen potentially playoff-altering rentals on the roster.

Vazquez was one of their most desirable chips, a World Series champion in the midst of a standout season. He's hitting .282 with eight homers and 42 RBIs, but those numbers don't tell the story of his transformation since early May. Starting with a two-game series in Atlanta that also marked the start of the team's (temporary, as it turned out) turnaround, Vazquez is hitting .299 with an .808 OPS and all but one of his home runs.

2022 MLB trade tracker: Listing every transaction before deadline

The longest-tenured member of the organization -- he was drafted in 2008 -- he's extremely popular in the clubhouse, where this news will not be enthusiastically received. Reporters in Houston captured teammates consoling him as he left the field during batting practice.

That said, with a brutal schedule remaining and seven teams ahead of them in the wild card race, the Red Sox will be best served in the long run by selling now. Left-hander Rich Hill has already been scratched from Wednesday's start for reasons manager Alex Cora wouldn't share, and J.D. Martinez and Nathan Eovaldi could be on the block as well.

 

The Red Sox put themselves in this position by losing 19 games in July after winning 20 games in June, and it's ugly to ponder what comes next. There's always the chance Vazquez could re-sign this fall when he enters free agency, but typically players in his situation find a new home.

In the short term, Kevin Plawecki becomes the starting catcher, with McGuire coming aboard from the White Sox for left-hander Jake Diekman in a separate deal. Neither is a viable everyday solution in 2023, however, so expect the Red Sox to be in the market for a catcher this winter.

McGuire is a former Blue Jays prospect with a strong arm and decent framing skills. Outside of a Sandy Leon-esque hot streak when summoned by the Jays last year, he hasn't done much offensively at any level since being selected 14th overall by the Pirates in 2013. He's hitting .225 with the White Sox this year and .241 for his career.

As for Pham, he has impacted a pennant race on behalf of Chaim Bloom before. The Red Sox chief baseball officer was in Tampa when Pham arrived in 2018 and helped the Rays win 90 games, though they fell short of the playoffs.

He has posted numbers that pretty much exactly duplicate those of Alex Verdugo, batting .238 with 11 homers and 39 RBIs. Like Verdugo, the 34-year-old Pham is a full-time left fielder, though he regularly played center as recently as 2018.

In some corners, the Vazquez and Pham deals are being cited as an example of the Red Sox both buying and selling, but I'm not seeing it, at least not yet. Replacing your starting catcher, who's playing at an All-Star level, with a carbon copy of an average outfielder who's already on your roster isn't an even swap.

Let's withhold those sweeping judgments until the deadline passes and we see who else Bloom has traded away.