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Inbox: Should Red Sox improve behind the dish?

Beat reporter Ian Browne answers questions from fans
January 16, 2019

Do the Red Sox feel they need to upgrade the offensive production from their catching position? Christian Vazquez (.207 average) and Sandy Leon (.177) combined for eight home runs and 38 RBIs last year. It seems tough to be able to compete (again) in the American League East with that

Do the Red Sox feel they need to upgrade the offensive production from their catching position? Christian Vazquez (.207 average) and Sandy Leon (.177) combined for eight home runs and 38 RBIs last year. It seems tough to be able to compete (again) in the American League East with that production.
-- Bob R., Utica, N.Y. 

For many years, the Red Sox have heavily prioritized defense at the catching position and have been willing to sacrifice offense for it. Last season was extreme with the offensive futility at that spot, but they still won the World Series. The same group of position players are back for another year, so the Sox don't necessarily feel like they need to get a big bat at catcher. Also, Boston firmly believes that Vazquez is a better hitter than he showed last season. Remember, he did hit .290 in 2017. Put it this way: I don't think it would be possible for the team to get less cumulative production from the catching spot than last season.
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What's the word on Blake Swihart lately? I saw he signed a one-year contract before the arbitration deadline. Do you think he'll be with the club come Spring Training? Do you think we could get something for him on the trade market? 
-- Jon D., Germantown, Md

As it relates to the question I answered above, Swihart is a player who could boost the team's offense behind the plate. With the limited playing time (192 at-bats) he got last year, it was hard for him to demonstrate what type of hitter he is. This is why the Red Sox are likely to go from three catchers to two in 2019. It remains to be seen which catcher will be on the move, but I don't expect all three to still be on the roster for Spring Training. Swihart would likely bring the best return in a trade. But don't rule out president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski dealing Sandy Leon or Christian Vazquez so the club can finally get Swihart on the field on a more consistent basis.
I know that Steven Wright had surgery earlier this offseason. Will he be ready to go for Spring Training or will he start the season on the DL? 
-- Michael C., Orlando, Fla.

Much like with Dustin Pedroia, the hope the Red Sox have for Wright is that he will be a full go this season. Perhaps we haven't heard as much about Wright as we should this offseason when discussing the bullpen. He can be a real multi-inning weapon when that knuckleball is right and he is also valuable insurance for the starting rotation.
Given Chris Sale's track record in the second half of the last two seasons, would he and the Red Sox consider making him the closer? 
-- Evans D., West New York, N.J.

I can categorically give you a "no" on this one. First of all, this is Sale's walk year, and it would leave a bad taste in his mouth if he couldn't fully demonstrate his value as a starter. Secondly, Sale's dominance as a starter is simply too great to devalue him by decreasing his innings. The best-case scenario for Sale and the Red Sox is for the lefty to have another big season in the rotation -- one in which he stays healthier than last year.
Is it possible top hitting prospect Michael Chavis would play second base this season? 
-- Roger, The Villages, Fla.

I think it's more likely that Chavis will continue to get more exposure to first base. Mitch Moreland and Steve Pearce both are eligible for free agency at the end of 2019. If Chavis has a strong enough season, he could convince the Red Sox that he's ready to take over first base in '20. As far as second base, this could become a more realistic possibility if Pedroia has more injury complications. But at this point, the Sox are hopeful that Pedroia can get back on the field.
Top prospect Chavis eager to return to Sox camp
Why wouldn't the Red Sox explore a trade for Cleveland's Corey Kluber in the event that they could lose Rick Porcello and Sale to free agency after the 2019 season? 
-- Todd H., New Brunswick, Canada

That's not as easy as it sounds. It would likely take a highly enticing prospect and/or impact player who is young and at a controlled cost to land Kluber. The Red Sox are still rebuilding the farm system after the recent trades that helped build last season's championship team, so trading a top prospect probably isn't the way to go. And the way the roster is presently constituted, the Sox think they have a strong chance to repeat, and trading premium talent from the current roster wouldn't help them reach that goal.
Top 30 Red Sox prospects 
In the short term, the starting rotation is one of the top strengths for Boston. Dombrowski will confront the long term when it comes to his pitching rotation after the 2019 season.
I'm a lifetime Red Sox fan and would like to know if Hanley Ramirez is still on their payroll.
-- Patrick T., Ridgefield Park, N.J. 

Ramirez is no longer on the payroll. If you recall, when he was released last May, it eliminated the chance that his 2019 option could vest.
What do you see Brandon Workman's role being next season after his tough postseason? 
-- Liam G., Houston

This is a crucial year for Workman, because he is out of Minor League options. Over the past few seasons, the Red Sox have always been able to keep the righty in the organization. They can no longer do that this year, which means Workman is going to have to perform consistently to earn his spot. He did have some good moments last season, but the hope is that he didn't lose too much confidence after his shaky postseason. Workman has a chance to establish himself with a setup crew that lost Joe Kelly to free agency. There's also a chance another key setup man could be elevated to closer in Matt Barnes.

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.