Tag: Jarrod Saltalamacchia

3 Reasons to Be Optimistic for Miami Marlins’ 2014 Season

Hey, the Miami Marlins are 1-0 and are in the first place in the National League East.

At this rate, they will go 162-0 and win the World Series.

Too much, too soon?

Yeah, it probably is, but that’s what happens when the Marlins score 10 runs in their season opener Monday to back a nine-strikeout, six-inning gem from 21-year-old pitching phenom Jose Fernandez. The win marked the first time the franchise has been above .500 since June 16, 2012 when they beat the Tampa Bay Rays 4-3 in 15 innings.

While some might actually be naive enough to think the Marlins will go 162-0 and win the World Series, few are predicting the Marlins to go from worst to first, let alone get to .500. That said, there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the 2014 season. Why else would one of the bigger dirty secrets in sports media is to write as many feel-good stories as possible in the offseason? Because no team can lose games when there are no games to be played.

But now that there has been a game played and won, some Marlins think there is a reason to be hopeful about 2014 despite losing 100 games last year and finishing last in the NL East three consecutive years.

I hope so, because this team is special,” Fernandez told MLB.com after the opener. “I see that. Not because we scored 10 runs (Monday). We’re going to lose a couple, but this team is going to fight. That’s the only thing we want. We want to go out there and fight.

Well, we’re not going to stop at one reason, are we? In lieu of Fernandez’s fighting spirit, here are three more reasons to be optimistic about the Marlins’ 2014 season.

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Jarrod Saltalamacchia Reportedly Agrees to 3-Year, $21 Million Deal with Marlins

The Miami Marlins are back in the free-agent ballgame, as the club reached a three-year deal with catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia on Tuesday evening.

Alex Speier of WEEI first reported the deal, which will reportedly pay Saltalamacchia a $7 million annual salary:

Joe Frisaro of MLB.com intimated earlier on Tuesday that the Marlins made Saltalamacchia, 28, a substantial offer, but no decision was imminent. He was expected to choose between the Marlins and Minnesota Twins, who are making a push to add a catcher after deciding to move Joe Mauer to first base. 

The Boston Red Sox, the club where Saltalamacchia spent three-plus seasons, essentially took themselves out of the race by signing veteran A.J. Pierzynski. After scuffling at the plate his first two full years, Saltalamacchia had the finest season of his career in 2013, hitting .273/.338/.466 with 14 home runs and 65 RBI.     

While he isn’t regularly cited among the best defensive catchers in baseball, he’s shown improvement in each of the past three seasons. His 7.3 defensive rating, per Fangraphs, was far and away the highest of his career.

The writing on the wall for Saltalamacchia’s departure from Boston, however, came during the club’s World Series run. With Saltalamacchia struggling with a high strikeout rate, John Ferrell eventually replaced him with David Ross for four of the World Series games.

The Marlins will obviously hope for a return to his regular-season form in 2014. They finished dead last in baseball this past season in nearly every major offensive category, and only two players had double-digit home runs. 

Saltalamacchia’s $7 million average salary over the life of the deal is also a huge step for Miami, which just a year ago stripped its payroll to the bone. Last winter, the Marlins traded ex-free-agent acquisitions like Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Heath Bell and others to take their payroll for 2013 all the way down to $36.34 million.

That figure ranked ahead of only the Houston Astros and came exactly one season after the club’s new Marlins Park opened. The new, cheap roster suffered through an understandably difficult season, going 62-100, again finishing only behind Houston for the worst record in baseball.

With promising young players like Giancarlo Stanton and Jose Fernandez adorning the roster, the Marlins are expected to try to get out of the National League cellar in 2014. Saltalamacchia won’t get them all the way there, but if his 2013 campaign avoids outlier status, he’ll be a good start.   


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Report: Boston Red Sox Sign Catcher A.J. Pierzynski

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports has tweeted that the Boston Red Sox have signed free-agent catcher A.J. Pierzynski to a deal. 

Sean McAdam of CSN New England reports that the deal is only for one year. The Red Sox’s ablity to sign Pierzynski to just a one-year deal is somewhat of a surprise, given the recent run on catchers receiving multi-year deals this winter. It’s a good low-risk move for the Red Sox. 

The 36-year-old Pierzynski, who will turn 37 this month, is coming off of a down season with the Texas Rangers. Pierzynski started to show some signs of decline, most notably posting the lowest OBP (.297) of his career in 2013 with the Rangers. He still managed to hit 17 home runs and knock in 70 runs, meaning that he should provide solid offense for the Red Sox. 

Durability has been one of Periznski’s career strengths, as he has appeared in more than 120 games in each of the past 12 seasons. The Red Sox know that Pierzynski will play through minor injuries during the course of the season. 

However, Pierzynski’s plate discipline may be an issue, with the veteran catcher only walking 11 times in 503 at-bats last season. The Red Sox like to work the count against opposing teams, meaning Pierzynski could be an odd fit in that regard. 

There are three immediate takeaways from the deal from the point of view of the Red Sox.

First, Boston must feel that top prospects Blake Swihart and Christian Vazquez are both getting very close to being able to help at the major league level next season, with Vazquez potentially reaching the majors during the second half of next year. Both prospects provide a tremendous amount of upside, with the 23-year-old Vazquez’s defense being viewed as MLB-ready right now. 

The 21-year-old Swihart is likely being groomed to become the everyday catcher for the team, but that might not occur until 2015, at the earliest. Swihart looks like he could be the whole package, combining offensive potential with improving defense. 

The second takeaway is that the Red Sox were only interested in bringing back Jarrod Saltalamacchia on their terms, likely a two-year deal with a hometown discount. With the free-agent deals recently signed by Carlos Ruiz and Brian McCann already this winter, Saltalamacchia should have better options available on the free-agent market. 

The 28-year-old Saltalamacchia is easily the best catcher remaining on the market. Now that he knows he is not returning to Boston, his market should become much clearer during the upcoming winter meetings. 

It’s a disappointing end to Saltalamacchia‘s time in Boston. Saltalamacchia was a productive and improving player with the Red Sox, but he seemed to struggle during the postseason and the defensive flaws in his game become more pronounced. Boston made the decision to move on from Saltalamacchia‘s potential. 

Lastly, Boston looks likely to go into next season starting the year with a platoon between Pierzynski and David Ross, giving Boston two experienced, veteran catchers to lead the pitching staff.

Pierzynski has a career .290 batting average against right-handed pitchers and a career .322 hitter at Fenway Park in a small amount of at-bats. Prospect Ryan Lavarnway will again come to spring training having to open some eyes if he is not included in a deal this winter. 

If Pierzynski can produce anything close to his career slash line of .283/.322/.428 for next season, the Red Sox would take that immediately for the 2014 season. 

The bottom line is that Boston obviously valued roster flexibility and short-term contract length by signing Pierzynski, a blueprint that served them very well last season.


* Information from Jon Heyman/CBS Sports, Sean McAdam/CSNNEBaseball Reference, Sox Prospects

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Red Sox Rumors: Latest News Surrounding Boston’s Offseason Plans

The Boston Red Sox have several decisions to make this offseason in the wake of their World Series victory against the St. Louis Cardinals, but luckily for them, there don’t appear to be too many major issues for them this winter.

Sure, Jacoby Ellsbury and Mike Napoli are free agents, but the Red Sox presumably have the cash to be in on each of the players until they decide where they’d like to sign. If nothing else, expect the Red Sox to drive up their price for other teams.

Most of Boston’s offseason thus far has been comprised of rumors behind the dish, and that’s an area that will need to be addressed by spring training.

Multiple reports would suggest that they’re on their way to doing so.


The Catching Conundrum

Jarrod Saltalamacchia is one of Boston’s free agents, though he’ll be courted by multiple teams this offseason. 

Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com believes that the Minnesota Twins, Colorado Rockies or Toronto Blue Jays could make a run at Salty, with the Red Sox of course being the in the mix as well. Heyman cites options like A.J. Pierzynski and Dioner Navarro as possibilities for Boston as well, but general manager Ben Cherington may have other ideas for a backstop.

Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald reports that the Red Sox have discussed opening the season with Ryan Lavarnway splitting time behind the plate with 37-year-old David Ross. This would be done in the hopes of using them as stopgap options until prospects Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart are ready to compete at the major league level.

Saltalamacchia put together arguably his most consistent season in 2013, hitting .273/.338/.466 with 14 home runs and 65 RBI. The in-house options presented by Lauber likely wouldn’t be able to equal that production.


Michael Young

Infielder Michael Young appears to be interested in joining an American League East club, as Peter Gammons reports that the 37-year-old is interested in joining either the Red Sox or Baltimore Orioles.

It’s unclear as to whether or not the teams have expressed interest in him, but it seems as if he’d be more than willing should the teams go after him. For a team like the Red Sox, Young would be a quality super-utility infielder that could find his way into semi-regular at-bats at third base.

Will Middlebrooks was nothing special last season, and Xander Bogaerts took at-bats away from him late in the season. If Stephen Drew leaves via free agency, Bogaerts could slide over to short and surrender third to Middlebrooks.

Young would give them a quality backup plan.

A team-friendly one-year deal would likely be reached with Young, and there really isn’t a downside to bringing him aboard. Maybe Gammons‘ tweet will spark some interest.


Patience with Mike Napoli

The Red Sox will have a huge hole at first base if they don’t re-sign Mike Napoli, and Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reports that they plan on being patient in their pursuit of him this winter.

After signing a one-year deal with Boston last offseason, Napoli more than earned the right to seek a multiyear deal during the season. He hit .259/.360/.482 with 23 home runs and 92 RBI in the middle of the lineup, and he could likely reel in a deal similar to Jhonny Peralta’s on the open market.

In his stead, the Red Sox could convert outfielder Daniel Nava to first base. That wouldn’t be ideal, however, as Napoli is actually a very good defensive first baseman and supplies much more pop to the lineup.

Coming off a World Series win, the Red Sox would be wise to bring back Napoli. He made an impact on the lineup and in the clubhouse, and those types of players are few and far between.

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Free Agent Spotlight: Jarrod Saltalamacchia

Jarrod Saltalamacchia is your value item of the 2013 free-agent catcher market.

Any team prone to clipping coupons or value hunting would do well to take a gander at the Red Sox backstop.

MLB Contributor Gabe Zaldivar breaks down one of the premier catchers on the open market at the moment, and at 28, he is clearly one of the rare players at the position with looming upside.

Here is our quick look at all the particulars regarding the catcher who is coming off a career year. While he has his issues on defense and with the bat, it’s clear that talent at this position is at a premium.

Saltalamacchia is one player who has proved his ability to get better on both sides of the plate, all while producing home run power.

The offseason is just getting started, and there will be a wealth of teams bandied about in the interim. Feel free to chime in with your thoughts on a captivating catching market.


Follow Gabe at: @gabezal

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Big Moves Miami Marlins Could Actually Pull off This Offseason

Imagine a scenario where the Miami Marlins calls Jay Z’s sports agency, Roc Nation, and tells him they are prepared to offer All-Star second baseman Robinson Cano the 10-year, $300 milllion contract the New York Yankees aren’t willing to put on the table. 

Roc Nation, surprised but skeptical because of what team is on the other line, decides to tell the Marlins they want $350 million for 10 years. Unfazed, the Marlins says that won’t be a problem. 

By Christmas, Cano signs with the Marlins, and the baseball world is stunned.

Believe it or not, the New York Post’s Joel Sherman thinks the Marlins could be a stealth bidder for Cano because they are further along in their accumulation of young talent, and no owner has proven more impetuous in spending and selling off than Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria.

In reality, this scenario is a pipe dream. There’s a better chance the Chicago Cubs will win the 2014 World Series than the Marlins have on spending more than $300 million on one single player. But if the Marlins did pull it off, no one would have seen it coming.

And that’s the point of this exercise, which is we will take a look at what big moves, from least likely to most likely, the “cash-strapped” Miami Marlins could realistically pull off this offseason. 

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Brian McCann Would Be Wrong Free-Agent Investment for Champion Red Sox

With the confetti still lining the city streets following their World Series victory, the Boston Red Sox are plotting moves that will help bring the franchise a second consecutive championship next year. 

One of the premiere names on the free-agent market is Brian McCann, who could upgrade what is already the best offenses in baseball and fill a void at catcher if Jarrod Saltalamacchia signs elsewhere. 

Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal noted that because the Red Sox didn’t give Saltalamacchia a $14.1 million qualifying offer, meaning he will be free to sign with another team without draft-pick compensation, McCann is on the team’s radar. 

But beyond Saltalamacchia, whose free-agent market the Red Sox could have undercut had they tendered a qualifying offer, the market for catchers is thin.


The rest of the free-agent class is a hodge-podge of mediocrity or worse — except for Brian McCann, who at this point looks like Boston’s primary free-agent target.

I find it interesting that the Red Sox would be in on a player like McCann, who is likely to command at least a four- or five-year contract.

Andrew Marchand of ESPN New York, talking to an MLB general manager, wrote McCann could get a deal in the range of six years, $100 million this offseason.

One big thing general Ben Cherington has done in his two years as general manager is avoid handing out significant long-term commitments to free agents and been able to rid the roster of expensive contracts stretched out over four or five seasons. 

Last year, for example, despite adding a lot of players to the roster via free agency (Mike Napoli, Shane Victorino, Stephen Drew, Koji Uehara and David Ross), none of them got a deal longer than three years. 

There is no doubt that, when healthy, McCann is one of the best catchers in baseball. Take a look at his offensive output compared to other backstops around the game. 

McCann is one of the three best catchers in baseball when it comes to offensive production, including six consecutive seasons with at least 20 home runs and no fewer than 18 in a season since becoming a full-time player in 2006. 

However, you will notice I made a point to say “when healthy.” McCann has had problems staying on the field the last two years, which has taken a toll on his production. He’s played in just 223 games since the start of 2012, hitting .242/.316/.426 in 889 plate appearances. 

Age and defense are also working against McCann. He is going to turn 30 February 20. With nine years of professional catching experience under his belt, there is a lot of wear and tear on his body. He already had shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum in October 2012, which is a big reason he’s missed so much time the last two years. 

McCann does earn high marks for blocking, receiving and pitch framing. He actually finished the 2012 season as the No. 23 catcher in baseball defensively (out of 116 players listed). 

That said, McCann’s defensive value has declined every year since his high-water mark in 2010. 

On top of that, there are the residual effects of McCann’s shoulder surgery. His best season throwing out would-be base stealers was 2010, when he caught them 30 percent of the time. Those numbers have dropped to 24 percent the last two years, which would have ranked 13th out of 15 catchers if he logged enough innings to qualify as an everyday player. 

If the Red Sox have reason to believe McCann’s offensive output will get back to the level it was prior to the 2012 season, or believe he’s good enough to stay behind the plate for the duration of a long-term contract, he would be a solid investment. 

Even if McCann’s offensive numbers stay where they’ve been the last two years and he can stay behind the plate for the majority of a contract, his value would be high because the threshold for catching is so low. 

The Red Sox have been cognizant of how much money they spend and whom they spend it on. They gave Dustin Pedroia $100 million over the summer because they’ve known him since he was drafted in 2004. Even in years when injuries have cost him time, his performance hasn’t suffered that much. 

Pedroia’s lowest OPS in a season was .787 in 2013, but he still got on base at a .372 clip and played most of the year with a torn ligament in his thumb that undoubtedly played a role in his lack of power. 

One advantage the Red Sox have is backup catcher David Ross, who played with McCann in Atlanta from 2009-12. He can give the team a scouting report on the kind of player and person his former teammate is. 

For all the positives McCann might bring to a clubhouse, an investment of this magnitude in a player whose numbers have dropped in recent years and doesn’t figure to stick as a catcher for the duration of a contract isn’t what the Red Sox need to do right now. 

I understand the need to find a starting catcher, but why not attempt to retain Saltalamacchia if that’s the case? He’s almost 15 months younger, is coming off a season with a career-high 54 extra-base hits and doesn’t figure to cost as much in years or dollars. 

Like McCann, Saltalamacchia has had issues throwing base stealers out (23 percent) during his career. Where McCann’s defensive metrics are declining, Saltalamacchia’s continue to get better. 

Is Saltalamacchia likely to duplicate his .273/338/.466 line from 2013 again? No, because a .372 batting average on balls in play isn’t sustainable for a player with a 3-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio, but low-average, high-power, above-average defensive catchers still have incredible value. 

Just because the Red Sox didn’t give Saltalamacchia a qualifying offer doesn’t mean they won’t negotiate with him or don’t want him back. 

Cherington is too smart to make a foolish investment that provides some short-term gain over long-term stability. McCann will be worth three or four wins in 2013 and 2014, but that production is likely to drop in three years based on recent patterns in his performance. 


Note: All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference unless otherwise noted. 

If you want to talk baseball, feel free to hit me up on Twitter. 

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2013 MLB Postseason Stock Watch for Upcoming Free Agents, Week 1

How a player performs when the games matter most could have an affect on his overall value, which is of greater importance to those who are eligible for free agency at season’s end. 

While a majority of these players will not stand out in a good or bad way, there are a handful of them who will. As a result, the price tag could rise or fall, at least slightly. A pair of 2012 postseason stars, Marco Scutaro and Anibal Sanchez, each cashed in after boosting their value greatly with strong playoff performances. 

Here are six players off to either a great start or a very poor start, or in one case, already done for the season after a wild-card loss. 


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Boston Red Sox: How Jon Lester Impacts Boston’s Opening Day Lineup

In most instances, a manager will focus on the opposing team’s starting pitcher when filling out his lineup card prior to a game.

But that may end up being the opposite of what Boston Red Sox manage John Farrell will do when he fills his out before Boston takes the field against the New York Yankees on April 1. It appears that Farrell will put more emphasis on his starting pitcher than New York’s, who is likely to be CC Sabathia.

Farrell has yet to announce who his Opening Day starter will be, but as Gordon Edes of ESPN Boston writes, all signs point to Jon Lester. Lester has started Boston’s first game the last two seasons, but is coming off a terrible season.

In 2012, Lester went 9-14 in 33 starts, posting a 4.82 ERA across 205.1 innings of work. Lester, however, has had a remarkable spring. In five starts, he has thrown 20 innings while allowing just a pair of earned runs. He’s struck out 16 batters and has walked just four. Giving him the nod on April 1 seems like a no-brainer.

Lester starting against the Yankees does affect who Farrell puts into the lineup, though. Farrell has to decide whether Jarrod Saltalamacchia or David Ross is going to be the Lester’s catcher when the Red Sox take the field against the Bronx Bombers.

While Saltalamacchia is the regular catcher on the roster and Ross is the backup, Ross may end up getting the start. As Edes explains, Ross has caught Lester more times than Saltalamacchia has this spring. Even though Farrell has said he won’t have specific pitcher-catcher pairings, the Boston newcomer may end up being Lester’s regular catcher.

Lester doesn’t think so, though, according to Edes.

“Salty’s the starting catcher, isnt he?” Lester said after Daniel Butler caught him in a minor league game, while Saltalamacchia was behind the plate for Daniel Bard. “I would imagine it’s Salty. I think that’s up to John Farrell when it comes down to that stuff. I would imagine if Salty’s the guy we’re going with, he’s the guy who will be catching me.” 

While Saltalamacchia may end up being the guy behind the plate most this season and the one that catches Lester more often than not, there are some extenuating circumstances that are out of his control.

David Ortiz is going to miss the start of the season as he continues to battle heel issues, leaving the designated hitter’s spot in the lineup unaccounted for. As spring training comes to a close, it appears that Saltalamacchia is a prime candidate to fill in while Ortiz is sidelined.

Saltalamacchia isn’t a fan of that notion, according to Brian MacPherson of The Providence Journal.

“I’m not a DH,” said Saltalamacchia. “I don’t want to be a DH. I’m not used to sitting on the bench, even if I go in the cages [during the game]. I’m used to catching where I see a ball coming. That helps me because I’m not walking up to the plate having not seen anything. You’re seeing balls come in from your pitchers. You already have that timing down. That helps me.”

Saltalamacchia’s career splits confirm his comments. Over the course of his career, Saltalamacchia has been a .245/.308/.434 hitter as a catcher and a .231/.351/.308 hitter as a designated hitter.

So what should Farrell do?

Although Saltalamacchia is a much better hitter as a catcher, it seems probable that he’ll be the Opening Day designated hitter.

Jonny Gomes is another candidate to fill the void left by Ortiz, but Saltalamacchia is definitely going to be in the lineup, unless he gets injured in the next week or so. Since Ross has been catching Lester the most this spring, one would assume that he’d be in the lineup as well. That would mean that Gomes likely plays left field on April 1.

This situation wouldn’t be nearly as complicated if Clay Buchholz looked like the Opening Day starter instead of Lester. But Lester gives Boston the best chance at opening the 2013 season with a win.

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MLB Teams That Could Try to Trade for One of the Red Sox’s Catchers

With a surplus of players who could fit the bill as a major league catcher, the Boston Red Sox find themselves in the rare position of strength heading into spring training.

There haven’t been any active discussions pertaining to the notion of trading a player like Jarrod Saltalamacchia as of yet, but with a strong enough spring training, the Red Sox may opt to see what they can get for the free agent-to-be.

2012 was Saltalamacchia‘s most successful offensive campaign, with 25 home runs and 59 RBI in 121 games—104 of which were behind the plate.

He unfortunately also struggles with his eye at the plate, with at least 120 strikeouts over his past two seasons and on-base percentages nowhere near .300.

Even if the team does deem there to be enough reason to move him, they then need to find a team that could offer a feasible package in return.

The Seattle Mariners‘ patience with Justin Smoak may be running thin, meaning they could be willing to take on a proven major league catcher in exchange. Yet with catching prospect Mike Zunino working his way up the team’s organization, Saltalamacchia may not be a long-term need.

A national league team seemingly in need of help in most areas are the Marlins, who have spent much of the offseason unloading anyone of value.

The catchers on their roster are young backstops who have little or no major league experience, and Jeff Mathis, a perennial backup who has never played more than 100 games in a season.

An unlikely but perhaps viable destination for Saltalamacchia may actually be Minnesota, where the Twins already have the highest-paid catcher in the league in Joe Mauer.

With $23 million owed to Mauer annually through 2018, there’s no doubt that he’ll be the focal point of their offense for years to come.

Mauer has, however, had his share of struggles staying healthy and has actually only once caught more than 120 games in his nine seasons with the Twins.

He caught only 74 games last season, and with the prospect of Justin Morneau entering free agency after this season, it wouldn’t be the biggest surprise to see Mauer gradually transition to seeing more action at first base.

The Red Sox may ultimately end up signing Saltalamacchia for the long term, but with catcher representing one of the most important positions on the field, there shouldn’t be a shortage of suitors if they seriously pursue the notion of moving him.

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