The Miami Marlins catcher corps is not exactly a source of strength right now. Yes, they signed local product Jarrod Saltalamacchia to a three-year deal before last season to catch full time, with Jeff Mathis spelling him (heh, no one can spell “Saltalamacchia,” get it? GET IT?)
But the problem is, you see, that Jarrod Saltalamacchia is just not that good. Jeff Mathis, as you are probably well aware, is even worse. Salty is certainly not worth the $21 million the Marlins will pay him through 2016, and he scuffled right away in his first year with the team, posting one of the worst offensive slash lines of his eight-year career.
Lurking in the minor leagues is prospect J.T. Realmuto. Easily the best catcher currently in the Marlins pipeline, Realmuto got his first cup of coffee at the big league level last year, coming up when Saltalamacchia went on the disabled list. He saw 30 plate appearances and looked largely overmatched by MLB pitching, and at 23 years-old still has time to develop in the minors. He probably won’t be ready to fully contribute in Miami next year.
So, the Marlins really should look elsewhere to field a potent catcher duo, and that’s where A.J. Pierzynski comes in. It’s probably a long shot, but the 37 year-old veteran is a free agent after finishing up 2014 with the St. Louis Cardinals. The Marlins love having veterans around to mentor the young guys, and Pierzynski and his 17 years of MLB experience could play that role in 2015.
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Jeff Mathis and his career-.563 OPS need to go, and has no business making $1.5 million to do basically nothing next year on a $65 million payroll club.
Hilariously, Mathis actually bested Saltalamacchia last year, posting a 0.1 WAR compared to Salty’s -0.0, according to Baseball Reference (How is a player worth -0.0 wins? Is that somehow worse than 0.0 wins? I don’t understand, but the fact remains that he was pretty bad in 2014.)
Pierzynski should be affordable on the free agent market this offseason. Last year he made $8.25 million, which is highway robbery for a backup catcher who was worth -0.9 WAR. There’s no way he gets that kind of money again. The Marlins should cut ties with Mathis and give some of that money to Pierzynski, who can at least run into one every once in a while (He is just two years removed from a 27 home run performance in 2012, and he hit 17 in 2013.)
He owns a .281/.320/.424 career slash line and has slugged 177 home runs. But at 37, Pierzynski is probably looking at backup duty wherever he signs.
The Marlins probably won’t sign A.J. Pierzynski, but it would be nice for them to employ a better backup catcher than Jeff Mathis. As it stands now, I usually get up to go to the bathroom, or get a beer, or wash my cat real quick every time Mathis comes to the plate.
It could help that Pierzynski went to high school in Orlando, FL, so perhaps a hometown discount could be arranged (even though he was born in New York).
Realistically, Salty and Mathis will probably be the Marlins catcher tandem again in 2015. The hot stove season is just getting started, and the Winter Meetings are right around the corner, so plenty can and will still happen. But, what do you think, Marlins fans? Who would you like to see backing up Saltalamacchia next year? Let us know in the comments below.