The Boston Red Sox were dealt a devastating blow on Wednesday, as it was announced that catcher Christian Vazquez will undergo Tommy John surgery to repair the UCL in his right elbow, putting him on the sidelines for the entirety of the 2015 season. The surgery is scheduled to take place on Thursday in Pensacola, Florida, with Dr. James Andrews performing the procedure.
The news isn't all that unexpected, as Vazquez was placed on the 60-day disabled list earlier this week with a right elbow sprain. The Red Sox also acquired Sandy Leon in a trade with the Nationals earlier this week, precipitating Boston's need for an additional catcher.
The 24-year-old Vazauez is widely regarded as an elite defensive backstop with a knack for controlling the running game. He made his big league debut last season, hitting .240/.308/.309 with a 75 OPS+ and 1.1 WAR in 55 games. Vazquez has a stronger track record of hitting in the minors (career .265/.344/.392) than he demonstrated in his first taste of the majors, but any offensive value produced figures to just be icing on his defensive skill set.
Vazquez was slated to spend the year as Boston's primary catcher, however, the club will likely turn to some combination of Leon and Ryan Hanigan instead. Hanigan was acquired in December from the Padres (via the Rays), in a deal for Will Middlebrooks. Like Vazquez, he is strong defensively, with excellent pitch-framing skills, however, he is a decade older and a huge injury liability.
Even if Vazquez were to have stayed healthy, it's unlikely that he would've been the Red Sox' starting catcher much longer after this season, with premium prospect Blake Swihart swiftly approaching the majors. Currently slated for Triple-A in 2015, Swihart is considered to be a core piece of the Red Sox going forward, with the club demonstrating its reluctance to part with him by refusing to include him in a deal for Cole Hamels this winter.