It turns out Sandy Leon wasn't the savior after all, which reminds us of Doug Mirabelli


Theo Epstein doesn't regret much about his tenure as Red Sox general manager, but bringing back Doug Mirabelli is an exception.

In 2006, Mirabelli famously received a police escort to Fenway Park after being reacquired from the Padres to once again serve as Tim Wakefield's personal catcher. The Red Sox had shipped Mirabelli west that winter for second baseman Mark Loretta and acquired Josh Bard from Cleveland to handle Wakefield's knuckler.

It was a disaster. Bard allowed 10 passed balls in five starts, and Epstein panicked. He brought Mirabelli back on May 1 in exchange for Bard and promising reliever Cla Meredith.

Mirabelli ended up hitting .193 in 59 games as Jason Varitek's backup, while Meredith dazzled in San Diego, posting a 1.07 ERA in 45 appearances.

"No offense to anyone involved in the deal, but I point to that trade because it was the worst process I've ever had," Epstein told the Hardball Times two years ago. "We were faced with a challenging situation, Bard not being able to adjust quickly to handling the knuckleball.

"Instead of being patient and coming up with a creative situation, we got caught up in some of the panic that was enveloping our clubhouse. I got too close to the situation and made a really reactionary move."

The Mirabelli deal feels relevant today, because the Red Sox made a similarly rushed decision at backup catcher two weeks ago, designating the versatile and forever-promising Blake Swihart to summon Sandy Leon from Triple-A Pawtucket to serve as Christian Vazquez's backup.

With the starting pitching staff delivering one abysmal start after another, Swihart became a convenient scapegoat, particularly since he's considered a subpar receiver. Many in the organization had wanted Leon to open the season with the team, anyway, after building trust with him during four seasons as a backup and occasional starter.

The Red Sox made the transition official by trading Swihart to the Diamondbacks on April 19 for outfielder Marcus Wilson in a swap of stalled prospects.

Ten days later, where do we stand? Leon's arrival has had a negligible impact on the staff and his bat barely registers for statistical purposes. If there's a saving grace, it's that Swihart hasn't done anything with his opportunity in Arizona, either.

The stats are hideous. Leon is hitting .091 in five games and Red Sox pitchers own a 6.62 ERA with him behind the plate. A year after catching two-thirds of Chris Sale's appearances and guiding him to a 2.04 ERA in those 18 games, Leon was on the bench for Sunday's 5-2 loss to the Rays. Vazquez caught Sale, who delivered his first seven-inning outing of the season.

Leon's 1-for-11 since returning is actually percentage points better than Swihart's 1-for-12 (.083) in Arizona. Swihart stroked a pinch single in his D'backs debut and has only reached base once since. He has been limited to the corner outfield spots thus far, with as many as four catchers ahead of him on the depth chart: Alex Avila (who is on the IL), Carson Kelly, John Ryan Murphy, and Caleb Joseph.

The Red Sox may not end up regretting the deal if Swihart fails to develop, but it doesn't erase questions about the process that prompted his departure. Just ask Epstein. He knows what it's like to think a backup catcher is the answer to your problems.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

Contact Us