HOUSTON — When season hunting veteran Jason Castro ended with knee surgery, the Houston Astros had two talented prospects ready to enter the backup role and one a major concern.
General Manager James Click said they weren’t sure, if switching to inexperienced Hunters in this vital position was wise for a World Championship contender, so Houston went shopping. They reached out at the trade deadline to get a well-known newbie, Christian Vasquez of Boston, to serve as a backup — or more, if needed.
“That’s a lot to ask of these guys at this point in their careers, so we wanted a level of depth just in case something happened in the final two months of the season,” Klick told Post-Dispatch last week. “Vazquez is a seasoned performer, who knows how to handle stress environments behind the board and on the board. At-bat is high quality on the board. All the things we knew had value.
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“First of all – a veteran post-season catcher.”
All this sounds familiar.
For the first time in a generation, this season the Cardinals will be looking for a junior player, squatting to take over after franchise player Yadier Molina retires. John Muziliak, head of baseball operations, mentioned the situation first when discussing off-season priorities publicly. Some of the traits the Cardinals would prefer in their next hunter are the same traits Houston sought, and for the same reasons as the ambitious competitor. That could lead them to the same choice: Vasquez, a free agent in a few days and has important relationships with Molina.
Last week, in Game 4 of the World Championships in Philadelphia, Vazquez joined St. Louis’s Yogi Berra as the only angler to shoot the World Championship no-nonsense. Vazquez is the first catcher to drive a combined no-hitter in the post-season. For Game 6 on Saturday night, Vasquez started on the set hitter to try and raise that spot in the Astros lineup. Earlier in his career, Vazquez texted Molina asking for advice on how to become a better leader, and this sparked a series of suggestions from Molina about building trust with the promotion’s crew. Vazquez adopted “all the little things he said to me to help me get better every day.” Within a few months, he was eager to play for Molina — “a player, a winner,” Vasquez said — on the Puerto Rican team in the World Baseball Classic. Vasquez and Molina have the same factor.
“It’s going to be hard to replace whatever she (Molina) brings,” Vazquez said during hitting practice last week. “All those years with my hands in St. Louis, doing all those things. It’s going to be tough. But let’s see what happens. I’m ready, and there are 30 teams.”
He added that his father had always been a big fan of the Cardinals.
Vazquez, 32, will be a free agent for the first time — and it comes at a time when his career has been abruptly upended by the commercial and dramatic change of role. Houston acquired Vasquez while the Red Sox were at Houston, which meant Vasquez was on the field preparing to warm up with the only jersey he knew while another was about to sew for him at the opposing club. Starting 78 out of 103 games in Boston, he was proud like Molina of being a long-range hunter, then – flash – a backup, not guaranteeing a lot of playing time behind Martin Maldonado.
Not much, other than the chance of winning. He prepared for the opportunity, even as he explained that the changing teams helped him realize what was chasing him as a free agent.
“Happiness, frankly,” said Vazquez, who was Boston’s catcher at the 2018 World Championships. “Obviously playtime – a lot. And obviously peace to my family. I think that’s going to be very important. And the win. Once you’ve tasted the ring – or maybe two after this year – you have to be that way all the time, savor the post-season time.” other”.
When the free agent market opens this week, the options in the catcher include Willson Contreras’ super offensive add-on, Cubs’ fame, and some defense first options that have seen slides in production. Through trade, there is a possibility that Oakland will entertain Golden Glove winner Sean Murphy, 28. Toronto has three catchers with which to tackle one, though it’s not clear that the Blue Jays are keen on relocating all-star catcher and all-arounder Alejandro Kirk, 23. The Cardinals are well positioned to make an offer to any Hunter that is provided based on their farm system, according to Scouts with other teams.
Mosiliac described how the Cardinals had been spoiled by “an elite defender over the past 20 years” and that they “did not want to take a big step back in defense.”
“It would be very hard to say, ‘Oh, we’re replacing Yadi,'” he said.
Vazquez lands on the defensive end of the spectrum. Career .261 hitter, he also has a 0.695 career OPS. As a beginner for Boston, he had a 759 OPS to go with an average of 0.228 last summer. Since 2019, his first year with playing no fewer than 100 matches, Vazquez is linked to Golden Glove catcher GT Realmoto, the Velez star, with 22 defensive points saved, according to Sports Info Solutions. From 2016 so far, 37 defensive points have been saved for Vazquez in sixth with teammate Maldonado.
Sports Info Solutions also counts the number of runs that catch bowlers help avoid by framing pitches for the strike zone, and Vazquez’s 37’s Saved in this way ranks fourth since 2016, its second season in a major.
This steady hand is what the Astros relied on, and what they bet on is Vazquez’s willingness to accept a lesser role during the season than would have been possible in the post-season.
“He’s a fantastic addition to us at the club and on the field because he has a lot of post-season and World Championship experience and has become a fantastic complement,” said Houston’s Aledmys Diaz. “He is a leader between the lines. He helps a lot behind the scenes. We have two players a day and they can compromise and put the team first and forget about numbers and egos because they want to win.”
With Javier on the hill for Game 4, Vazquez drew his first start at the World Championships and only his second in the post-season. What followed was history. Not since Don Larsen’s perfect match in 1956 has there been one team in the World Championship that has kept the other team without a hit. Not since Musk Berra raced up the hill to celebrate finishing his La Hitter World Championship. After that, Javier praised Vazquez’s presence behind the board, in his ear: “He stayed above me, kept motivating me throughout the match, and gave me really good positive energy.”
The National Baseball Hall of Fame required the four bowlers to sign a game ball from the batsman’s team—and so did the Vazquez.
“That was the ability to carry out a game plan as well as react to the situation in the moment, read the hitter, adjust and maybe even walk away from play,” Klick said. “Having a seasoned veteran who’s been there, learned in this kind of environment, handled that kind of pressure, is something we’ve really prioritized.”
And in a few days, it was Vasquez’s turn to set priorities.
“It would be great,” Vazquez said. “I’ve been waiting for this opportunity to be a free agent, to find out.”
When Pujols retire, do their bats?
At the Cardinals club last spring, a teammate grabbed a Marucci AP-5 bat from Albert Pujols, swung it quickly, and lamented that he could never use it for any game.
He said, “The town of Marauchi AP-5.” “Population: 2.”
Pujols’ rackets and the limited players who could use the form became a brief topic at this year’s World Championships when Maldonado used a racket given to him by Pujols in the first game. For use by a few players, all of whom debuted prior to 2010. Pujols and Molina were among the last remaining players allowed to use the bat form, as both acknowledged during the season. A Marucci contact declined to comment on the model’s future last summer.
The AP-5 was one of Marucci’s original models, and its popularity and quality helped the bat manufacturer grow into one of the most popular models in the industry.
In 2008, the MLB conducted an extensive study of bat species and how they split, and the results of that study led to criteria for reducing the number of multi-piece breaks. Among them, MLB reduced the maximum barrel diameter to 2.61 inches from 2.75 inches. Players who were in the majors before the new rules can continue to swing the previously allowed forms for the rest of their career.