The Miami Marlins weirded everyone out today by designating their starting catcher for assignment. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who is barely into the second of three seasons on the deal he signed in the 2013/2014 offseason, is now on his way out of town, having been displaced by touted rookie J.T. Realmuto.
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Coming on the heels of last year’s .220/.320/.362 line is this year’s .069/.182/.207, in case you’re wondering why the Marlins decided to do this right now as opposed to a little later. Sure, it’s been only 33 trips to the plate, but Miami has had enough. They’re done with this, and now the’re moving on.
Salty’s long been overrated, and now he’s been dumped by a mediocre team. So why talk about him here, on a Seattle sports blog? Because, this:
The Diamondbacks are a team without a catcher, the Indians are a team that lost their catcher, and the Red Sox are a team that lost their catcher and used to employ Saltalamacchia. The Mariners have a catcher who’s valuable even when he’s not hitting. So, why the connection?
Mike Zunino isn’t hitting, for one. Not at all. He’s great at working with a pitching staff, so long as it’s his own and not that of the opposing team. Those pitching staffs eat him alive. Saltalamacchia hasn’t hit a lick this season, sure, but he’s had a wRC+ over 90 every year since 2011. He’s got a track record of being okay at worst.
Jesus Sucre, for another. What are your greatest hopes for Sucre? That he hits a hollow .250 while playing good defense once a week? That’s about his ceiling, and he’s never looked quite ready to reach it. He’s not good, is the point. The Mariners could use a backup catcher.
So sure, Salty it is, then. Except the Mariners have a history of preferring backup backstops who can really play the field, and Saltalamacchia is notoriously difficult to work with behind the plate. He’s a bad framer, and pitching staffs aren’t fond of him. Zunino’s defense props up his value when he isn’t hitting, but Salty’s defense drags his value down even when he is hitting. They’d be a weird pairing, to say the least.
Then there’s the issue of money. The Mariners obviously wouldn’t be looking to take on 100% of Saltalamacchia’s contract, but it’s unlikely the Marlins would be eager to eat 100% of it, either. That they’re already talking to teams this soon after the DFA suggests someone might be willing to pay for Salty. It’s best if that’s not the Mariners, especially since Saltalamacchia’s contract runs another year after this one.
It’s tempting, if only because we think of him as a decent bat. He’s really only had one above-average season at the plate, and that was almost entirely due to an abnormally and unrepeatably high BABIP. Saltalamacchia is a career .240/.310/.415 hitter. That’s not the kind of player you pick up just for his bat.
But if he’s better than Sucre, then what’s the downside? If he gets cheap enough, then sure, go for it. Trade for Jarrod Saltalamacchia, but only if it’s as low-risk as possible. And with other viable landing spots, odds are the M’s won’t be able to get their man for the right price.