Last off-season, the Miami Marlins made three “significant” off-season signings, in second baseman Rafael Furcal, first baseman Garrett Jones, and catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. This off-season, after all three had disappointing seasons, the Marlins have already let Furcal walk via free agency and traded Jones to the Yankees.
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The last free agent signing of the trio of the season ago was also on the block for the Marlins, but the team never received an offer to their liking. This according to Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald.
"The Marlins were very open to dumping the last two years and $15 million of catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s contract, according to a team that spoke with them, but nothing materialized and Miami now expects him back, hoping for drastic improvement.He finished his first Marlins season with the most errors of any catcher in baseball (15), the third-lowest average among qualifying catchers (.220), and among the worst averages in all of baseball with runners in scoring position (.182) and runners in scoring position and two outs (.122, 5 for 41).The Marlins love top catching prospect J.T. Realmuto — a excellent defender who hit .299 with 8 homers, 62 RBI at Double A Jacksonville. He would have been in line to share the job with Jeff Mathis if Saltalamacchia had been dealt."
Salty is set to make $7 million in 2015 and $8 million in 2016. Jackson already pointed out the terrifying numbers on Salty’s end on defense, but his offensive numbers were not much better. He posted a .220/.320/.362 slash line with 11 home runs, a 1.3 fWAR, but an even 0.0 bWAR. The main issue with Salty’s fWAR would be that Fangraphs does not factor in defensive framing numbers, which he lags behind in. His 32.9 strikeout percentage was another major concern.
The team is now hopeful that Salty’s second season with the staff and second season in the National League will go better than his first, as he continues to adjust to the new league. Salty is a definite bounceback candidate for the Marlins, especially if he can improve his ISO from his .142 to his career mark of .176.
Steamer actually projects a similar season at the plate for Salty in 2015, with a .220/.301/.377 slash line with 13 home runs and a 1.2 fWAR.
If the team had traded Salty, the team would have had handed the catching reigns to the duo of top catching prospect J.T. Realmuto and Jeff Mathis. Realmuto had a weak rookie showing, hitting .241/.267/.345 with a 69 wRC+.
Realmuto posted a 93 wRC+ in his first go-around in Double-A in 2013, before repeating the level in 2014 and posting a 132 wRC+. In my opinion, he still needs more time in the minors to continue to round out his offensive game, though his defense is likely major league ready.
Jeff Mathis is not a caliber major league starting catcher, nor a smart guy to put in a platoon with. Mathis posted a .200/.263/.274 slash line in 195 plate appearances. His hitting line was 48% worse than league average and he was worth 0.1 fWAR, despite his strong defense behind the plate.
While Saltalamacchia was a disappointment behind the plate last year, a duo of Realmuto and Mathis behind the plate in 2015 would be worse than the production the Marlins received in 2013 and the few seasons before that. Switching from Jarrod Saltalamacchia to the tandem of Realmuto and Mathis would cost the Marlins one win over the course of the season.
Now trading Salty and going with the Realmuto/Mathis duo would be beneficial to the Marlins if they use the money they save from Saltalamacchia’s contract to give to James Shields. With Steamers projecting Shields with a 3.0 fWAR, he’d provide the Marlins with a 2 win improvement for the 2015 season, getting the Marlins closer to becoming a playoff team.