Miami Marlins: Too Soon to Give up on Jarrod Saltalamacchia

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The Miami Marlins got off to a slow 3-11 start to the season. Owner Jeffrey Loria quickly looked for a scapegoat and had manager Mike Redmond in his sights. With a recent surge, Redmond survived as the Marlins manager, but the slow start had to be pinned on someone. 

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On Monday, the team parted ways with catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, designating him for assignment. They have 10 days to release, trade, or reassign him to the minors, but are currently in talks with at least 5 teams about their former free agent prize from a year ago.

The biggest backlash against a potential Mike Redmond firing was that we didn’t have a big enough sample size of what the team could do to fire the manager, but the same holds true for Jarrod Saltalamacchia, or any other position player.

Salty had a pretty bad 2014 season and the Marlins did try to trade him during the offseason, so it’s not like this move came from nowhere. He also got off to a slow start to the 2015 season, but that’s in an extremely small sample size of 33 plate appearances.

Saltalamacchia’s line for the 2015 season currently stands at .069/.182/.207 with a 13 wRC+. Yes, those numbers are an eyesore, but he’s been unlucky as well as bad, as his BABIP now sits a .063. His 2014 mark was at .317, which fits along with his career mark of .319, so there was positive regression that was going to take place for Saltalamacchia.

Redmond had a few things to say about Salty, but this quote stuck out to me the most:

"“Last year was a tough year [for Saltalamacchia]. We were looking for him to be better and it just didn’t happen.”"

If 14 games is too small of a sample size to fire a manager, 33 plate appearances is certainly way too small of a sample size to cut a position player, which Redmond did not seem to understand, especially since he was in a similar position with his job on the line just a few days ago.

What’s even more astonishing is that the team is putting full faith in a 24-year old catcher, one whom owns an unspectacular career slash line of .268/.335/.394 with a .729 OPS in the minors.

I like Realmuto a lot, but he is far from a sure thing at this stage in his career. With the team contending for a playoff spot, that’s a questionable move in my mind. Realmuto owns a .237/.250/.342 slash line in his first 40 plate appearances of 2015, which is nothing special, but an upgrade over what Salty was giving them, especially if you factor in defense.

But I’m not trying to frame this as a Saltalamacchia vs Realmuto discussion for why the Marlins were mistaken to rid themselves of Salty. In fact, I agree that Realmuto is the supeiror option moving forward, as Michael Jong, of Fishstripes, pointed out in his post this morning.

"To with, ZiPS expects Realmuto to bat .245/.294/.345 (.287 wOBA), while it sees Saltalamacchia hitting .228/.305/.396 (.308 wOBA). Over 400 plate appearances, that represents a six-run difference between the two players. If you think Realmuto is a positive behind the plate, you could probably stretch their difference into six runs, making them equivalent over the full year. That starts to tilt towards Realmuto if you buy into the idea that Saltalamacchia’s bat may have slowed and he is beginning the stark decline of the strikeout-prone hitter."

Realmuto is the future of the Marlins’ at catcher, there’s no denying that. But putting all your eggs in one basket never seems like a good idea.

The bigger issue I have with the Marlins giving up on Salty is that they are now trusting Jhonatan Solano, a career minor leaguer, to be the backup to a rookie. Solano has a reputation of being a solid defensive player, but has always been a below average hitter in the minor leagues.

This move, in my opinion, would have been alright if the team had waited for Jeff Mathis to come back and take over the catching duties. Mathis, while not a superior option to Salty offensively, has a great reputation behind the plate and has plenty of experience to bring with him as well. While I’d prefer Salty over Mathis, Mathis being the backup catcher over Salty would actually make a lot more sense than the current situation. Though I would prefer Salty in that situation as well.

Eating $14 million for the next two seasons and having an inferior player on the roster limits the Marlins upside and room for error moving forward.

However, there are two ways my premise that letting Salty go is a mistake, 1. they have a trade worked out, or 2. Salty was a distraction in the clubhouse.

Number 1 is believable, but even then, a struggling owed $14 million is likely going to bring an organization filler in return, at best. Number 2 is harder to believe without actual proof, as Tommy Hutton and Rich Waltz have said on the broadcast that Salty has been more than willing to accept a move to the bench, to accommodate Realmuto.

While most Miami Marlins fans were tired of Salty and wanted him out of Miami, the Marlins are a worse team today than they were Sunday.

Yes, Salty had struggled in 2015, much like he did in 2014, but the Marlins gave up on him too soon and in doing so, ate a lot of money for a team that has a rich tendency to cry poor. The team, as a result, is worse overall behind the plate now.

Next: Marlins Designate Salty for Assignment

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