The ink isn’t dry yet, and there is still a physical to pass, but it looks like Boston catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia is now a Marlin. A back-loaded three-year $21m deal is the first of two big pieces the Marlins need to complete the puzzle called “Offense.”
Last spring, I went into my local bank to inquire about opening a “teen checking” account for my son. Banks always seem to have a few desks out in the open for account management business, so I headed to the first available desk. The nameplate was three times longer than any other one in the branch, and was instantly recognizable (hey, it could have been Rzepczynski). After introductions and pleasantries, I asked if there was any relationship to the MLB catcher. Yes was the answer, her brother-in-law.
In another anecdote, I play Sunday league ball, and our team’s starting catcher (I’m too old to handle more than a couple of innings at a time) got tapped to be a bullpen catcher for Kevin Millar’s “The Next Knuckleballer” reality show on MLB Network last year. Salty was the big leaguer invited to opine on the difficulties (#understatement) of catching a Tim Wakefield or an R.A. Dickey. Over beers after a game, I got to hear the war stories about Millar, Salty, and the ups and downs of reality TV.
Why was Saltalamacchia the guest pro catcher? He lives a couple of hours south of where the show was taped. About 20 minutes south of the Marlins spring training complex in Jupiter, and he has family scattered all over Palm Beach County.
The combination of home, family, and no state income tax proved to be enough to lure the Saltalamacchia pen to the Loria contract, even if it had the standard club garlic for the no-trade clause vampire.
Mixed in the negotiations were the Minnesota Twins, fresh from sending veteran all-star catcher Joe Mauer to first base as a pat on the butt for a job well done. They too have a big hole to fill behind the plate, but the dollars it would take the Twins to overcome the heavy pull from south Florida was too rich for their blood, and they bailed out a few hours before the announcement by the Marlins.
So. Who did we get?
Besides the longest surname in MLB history, we got a starting catcher that hits from both sides of the plate and is coming off of a career-best .273/.338/.466 age-29 season. On top of that, he hit 40 doubles across his 121-game season. Doubles hitters are what the Marlins need the most, given the size of their outfield. Fangraphs ranked him near the top of free-agent catchers. His weakness appears to be a high strikeout rate when he hits from the right side, so look for him to platoon with Jeff Mathis. His receiving skills are solid, and it’s likely that a season under Mathis’ wing will bump him into the ”plus” category for game calling and young pitcher management.
Mr. Saltalamacchia, welcome home from all of us at Marlin Maniac.