It certainly didn’t have the reverberations of Rob Gronkowski spiking the ball on his Hall of Fame career, but the Red Sox finally resolved their catching situation on Sunday night.

You’re forgiven if you missed the baseball news that was buried in the moments following Gronk’s Instagram announcement.

With three catchers on the roster and a long-stated desire to only carry two, the Boston Red Sox put Sandy Leon on waivers.

It’s a wise move for a couple of reasons.

Leon is the most likely of the three to pass through, with his $2.5 million a lot to pay a backup catcher that hit .177 last season, and he could wind up in Pawtucket if he goes unclaimed. It’s not a definite that he’s gone.

Far more importantly, this signals a real commitment to Blake Swihart.

It’s easy to forget how much potential Swihart has because in recent years, his stats have been deceiving.

The 26-year-old finished last season with three home runs, 18 RBI and a .229 batting average, but numbers without context are like a photograph of Nate Eovaldi losing Game 3 of the World Series without including the Herculean story that preceded it.

The full story of Swihart’s 2018 is complicated.

For the first two months, he was lampooned as the 25th man on a roster that was out of flexibility. With no minor-league options but plenty of value as a trade chip, Swihart was stuck in baseball purgatory.

The catcher-turned-outfielder-turned-corner-infielder wound up turning bench warmer because he didn’t yet have Alex Cora’s trust. In the first 50 games of the season, Swihart had 30 at-bats.

It’s impossible to expect anybody – let alone a young catcher – to have success at the major league level without seeing regular playing time. Oh, you haven’t faced live pitching in over a week? Well, you’re in the lineup today, and Justin Verlander is on the mound.

Good luck!

Up until June, Swihart was doomed for failure, and hit .163 with very little power accordingly.

But that changed as the season wore on. Boston jettisoned Hanley Ramirez, allowing Swihart more starts at first base, and when Christian Vazquez went down with a broken finger, Swihart took off.

Finally seeing regular playing time behind Leon, Swihart hit .277 with a .734 OPS, both higher than perennial AL All-Star catcher Salvador Perez’s totals. (Of course, Perez is nasty defensively, too, but that shows a glimpse of Swihart’s offensive upside).

Swihart’s athleticism profiles him as a perfect backup catcher for the time being. Valuable as a pinch-hitter, able to survive at different positions, and Boston’s de facto pinch runner last season, he brings a lot to the bench, especially with the starts mixed in and his timing down.

Defense has been Swihart’s biggest concern, but it’s not a coincidence he was once profiled as baseball’s best catching prospect. Swihart has the tools to develop his defense.

There’s a reason Red Sox architect Dave Dombrowski, who never shies away from dealing prospects, has held on to Swihart. The value is there.

Some of the starters will certainly miss Leon, but he lost his leverage in October when Vazquez usurped his playing time.

When the playoffs rolled around, Vazquez finally snapped out of the daze that dominated much of his season.

The Red Sox went 9-1 with Vazquez starting behind the plate, he provided timely offense, and was the one leaping into Chris Sale’s arms after Game 5 in Los Angeles.

Neither Vazquez nor Leon contributed much at the plate the regular season, but after the World Series run, it was clear which of the two defensive catchers was the leader in the clubhouse.

For perspective on how little Leon and Vazquez gave the Red Sox last year, there were 37 catchers that had at least 250 plate appearances last season. Vazquez was 36th with an OPS of .540, and Leon was dead last at .515.

It wasn’t close either; 35th place Caleb Joseph came in at .575

As for the other Red Sox catcher?

Spring training stats are always to be taken with a grain of salt, but Grapefruit League was simply a continuation of the same trend. While Vazquez and Leon struggled, Swihart went 12 for 29 (.414) with a .951 OPS.

He’ll need to earn the pitching staff’s confidence, which is no small feat, but trust is earned over time and the Red Sox are finally committed to giving it to Swihart.

For a catcher with his bat, the bleachers in center field are the limit.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.