The Astros have reportedly been within the combine for upgrades at catcher and at first base, prominently related to each Willson Contreras and Josh Bell. However, whereas these two signify the debatable prime choices at these respective positions, the asking value on each has been excessive, and Houston is exploring various choices. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic writes this morning that the ‘Stros “are focusing extra on Vazquez” than Contreras at this level, including that they’ve additionally expressed curiosity within the Rays first baseman/designated hitter Ji-Man Choi.
Vazquez, 32 in three weeks, is a extra easy commerce candidate than Choi. The longtime Red Sox backstop is enjoying out the ultimate season of a contract extension he signed a number of years in the past and can be a free agent on the finish of the season. Boston is at present sitting within the AL East cellar. Although the Sox are nonetheless simply 3.5 video games again for the ultimate American League Wild Card spot, they’d must leapfrog 4 groups to get there. Chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom is not anticipated to be an all-out vendor, however he is prone to take heed to provides on veteran leases reminiscent of Vazquez and designated hitter JD Martinez.
The veteran Vazquez is having fun with a top quality season on either side of the ball. He’s hitting .282/.327/.432 (111 wRC+) with eight homers, 20 doubles and a 16% strikeout fee — the second-lowest fee of his profession. He’s additionally notched a +5 Defensive Runs Saved mark and boasts a 30% caught-stealing fee. He’s been narrowly under common by way of framing, in accordance with each FanGraphs and Statcast, but it surely’s been a powerful all-around yr for Vazquez, whose $7MM wage is loads reasonably priced for many groups — significantly a deep-pocketed membership just like the Astros. The Sox are reportedly searching for MLB-ready assist even in return for his or her rental items, nonetheless, which certainly complicates issues for the Astros and different events.
Choi, who simply turned 31 a pair months in the past, is a little more of an outside-the-box commerce candidate. The Rays are at present in possession of that ultimate AL Wild Card spot which the Red Sox are chasing, and the left-handed-hitting Choi has been an vital a part of their lineup. In 296 plate appearances, Choi is hitting .255/.355/.415 with eight residence runs, 16 doubles and a hefty 13.5% stroll fee. He has an extended observe file of thumping right-handed pitching, evidenced by a .252/.359/.464 batting line when holding the platoon benefit.
Lefties have given Choi a tougher time. He’s hitting .325 in opposition to them this season, granted, however that is coming in a tiny pattern of 43 plate appearances. His success in opposition to southpaws on this yr’s tiny pattern is loads suspect; he is punched out in 37.2% of his plate appearances in opposition to them and is sporting an entirely unsustainable .520 BABIP in opposition to same-handed opponents. In all chance, he’d fall right into a platoon in Houston, yielding at-bats in opposition to lefties to Astros stalwart Yuli Gurriel.
Choi is an atypical commerce candidate not solely on account of his standing as a productive hitter on a present playoff staff but in addition as a result of he is managed past the present season. He’s incomes an reasonably priced $3.2MM wage this season and would earn one ultimate increase in arbitration this winter earlier than reaching free company following the 2023 marketing campaign. The Rays, nonetheless, have reasonably priced choices to step in for Choi at first base, together with Yandy Diaz, Harold Ramirez and Isaac Paredes. Top prospect Curtis Mead appears Major League prepared after ripping by means of Double-A and Triple-A this season, too. Furthermore, Tampa Bay has a knack for locating and maximizing the manufacturing of undervalued platoon bats of this nature. Choi himself was acquired from the Brewers in a low-profile commerce for utilityman Brad Miller in 2018 and has been a fixture within the Rays’ lineup since.
If the Rays have been to commerce Choi or another member of their present roster, it certainly would not be an indication that they are pivoting to a basic “vendor” mindset. Tampa Bay walks this line yearly, recurrently buying and selling high quality large leaguers who’re inching nearer to free company whereas concurrently including some assist in different swaps. They flipped reliever Diego Castillo to the Mariners eventually yr’s deadline, as an illustration, and so they’re lower than 48 hours faraway from buying the veteran outfielder David Peralta from Arizona.