Usually when a catcher decides to test the waters of free agency, he gets snatched up pretty quickly. All teams long for a good backstop, especially one that has a bit of offensive punch.
Brian McCann was the top catching target this offseason, and the New York Yankees gobbled him up for five years. Next up was Carlos Ruiz, who despite serving a suspension last season for PED usage, has become one of the game’s top all-around catchers. The Phillies locked up Ruiz for three years.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia has put together three solid seasons in Boston. As the Red Sox's primary catcher, the switch-hitting catcher hit double-digit home runs the past three seasons, including a career-high 25 in 2012.
His batting averages the first two seasons were a bit low, but he rebounded to hit .273 in 121 games, definitely a plus for a catcher.
One knock on Salty though that may affect his stock this offseason was his postseason performance during the Red Sox's World Series run. He struck out 19 times in 10 games and did not record a hit in eight World Series at-bats. He wound up being benched in favor of veteran backstop David Ross.
Despite a poor postseason, Saltalamacchia has proven he can be an offensive contributor in any lineup. A team looking to sign him must realize that he’s not going to be a middle-of-the-order-type run producer, but he can be very effective as a lower third of the order hitter.
So let’s look at which teams could be in play for Salty’s services.
A few teams are in desperate need of a catcher. The Seattle Mariners could use a veteran backstop with an impact bat. Salty’s old team, the Texas Rangers, also have a need behind the dish.
With Joe Mauer moving permanently to first base, the Minnesota Twins should be in on Saltalamacchia. The team has already signed two veteran starting pitchers in Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes, so the Twins don’t seem timid in spending money. This really could be a good fit.
The Colorado Rockies are said to have some interest in Salty, but signing him would require moving current catcher Wilin Rosario to the outfield. We saw last season with the Braves and Evan Gattis that moving a catcher to the outfield isn’t exactly a smooth transition.
It turns out the Red Sox could use a catcher as well and may be thinking about re-signing Salty. Ryan Lavarnway has not progressed as the team has envisioned, but unless the organization is ready to give him a shot, the starting catcher position remains open. Boston was in on McCann but lost out to the Yankees.
There are a few other teams, including the Blue Jays, White Sox, Athletics, Dodgers and Marlins, that would love an upgrade at catcher. But with other pressing needs, a catcher seeking a multi-year deal is not a top priority.
Salty though should be in a good position right now. There’s likely a team out there desperate enough for catching help that would give him a three or four year deal worth in the neighborhood of $30 million to $40 million.
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