Catchers are flying off the free agent market. The Miami Marlins reached an agreement with Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post reported the signing. Phil Mackey of 1500 ESPN reports that it is a two-year deal with a club option for the third year. The Marlins along with the Twins were reportedly interested in Saltalamacchia
The addition of Saltalamacchia should shore up the Marlins dismal receiving cast. Marlins catchers hit an MLB-worst .192/.249/.280 in 2013 with a dismal -1.8 fWAR.
Saltalamacchia is coming off a career year with the Boston Red Sox, who acquired him at the trade deadline in 2010. In 470 plate appearances, he hit .273/.338/.466 with 14 home runs, 40 doubles and 3.6 fWAR.
While he’s coming off a very good year, there are some significant holes in Saltalamacchia’s game. He’s not a great defensive catcher, and has thrown out just 23 percent of baserunners over the course of his career. His blocking and receiving skills are a little below average.
Furthermore, it’s unlikely that he can replicate his 2013 success at the plate. For his career, Salty has a whopping 29.4 percent strikeout rate. Most of his success was built on the strength of a .372 in-play batting average.
That’s almost guaranteed to drop, and unless his power production bounces back up or his strikeouts drop dramatically, he’ll be more of a league average hitter. Steamer calls for a .230/.301/.414 line for Salty in 2014, which is consistent with his career numbers.
Additionally, the switch-hitting Saltalamacchia struggles mightily against lefthanded pitching. For his career, he’s hit just .206/.267/.332 against lefties, compared to .263/.327/.469 against righties. The Marlins will probably give him a career-high number of plate appearances. The extra playing time against lefties will bring his numbers down.
The Saltalamacchia signing helps fill a big need for the Marlins, but it’s unlikely that the catcher will produce at his 2013 level. At two years and presumably in the range of $10-12 million, it’s reasonable, but I think the Toronto Blue Jays and the Boston Red Sox found better value with the Dioner Navarro and A.J. Pierzynski signings.