Free Agent Target: Are Blue Jays In on Jarrod Saltalamacchia?

Oct 26, 2013; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Cardinals designated hitter Allen Craig (21) scores the winning run on an obstruction call even though Boston Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia (39) gets the tag on him during the ninth inning of game three of the MLB baseball World Series at Busch Stadium. Cardinals won 5-4. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Interesting note from Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, who on Tuesday night identified the Toronto Blue Jays as one of a handful of teams that could possibly jump in a steal Jarrod Saltalamacchia away from the Boston Red Sox.

Now in reality, that isn’t much of a reach on Heyman’s part, as the Blue Jays have already identified catching as their second greatest need this winter, behind only the starting rotation. With the market starting to dwindle a bit, after Carlos Ruiz and Brian McCann having signed with the Phillies and Yankees respectfully, Salty becomes the next best target for those teams looking to upgrade behind the plate.

The Colorado Rockies, Minnesota Twins, Chicago White Sox, and Texas Rangers are other teams also looking to add a new backstop this winter.

Considering how deep of a hole that J.P. Arencibia dug for himself this past season, Saltalamacchia would represent a huge upgrade for the Blue Jays. While his home run output dropped in 2013, Salty still contributed a solid slash line of .273/.338/.804, all of which represent a full-season career high for the 28-year-old switch hitter.

Although he’s not the greatest defensive catcher in the world, Saltalamacchia is regarded as being a good game caller and develops a strong relationship with his pitchers. He does not handle the knuckleball well, as evidenced by his time catching Tim Wakefield early in his career, so he isn’t likely to catch R.A. Dickey at all. However, with Josh Thole already on board, there is little concern about that in Toronto.

That all said, Salty may be out of Toronto’s price range. Tim Dierkes at MLB Trade Rumors pegged Saltalamacchia as likely to see a contract that ranges from a floor three-years, $24 million to a ceiling of four-years, $40 million. With the deals landed by Ruiz and McCann, the money for Salty likely falls closer to the ceiling than it does the floor.

Toronto is also said to be considering Dioner Navarro and A.J. Pierzynski as well. Kurt Suzuki also remains an outside, buy-low possibility for the Blue Jays.

So Jays fans, do you think Salty would make a good addition for Toronto?

Topics: Toronto Blue Jays

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  • david s

    If Salty is so good as a catcher why was he replaced in the World Series?

    • Kyle Franzoni

      I think Red Sox went with the hot hand with Ross. I don’t think it was a reflection on what they thought of him personally or professionally.

    • Cybelle Mandell

      He got them through a winning season and caught more than he ever had with Ross on DL for two months. At the end he was just worn out.

    • Justin Jay

      ::REAL REASON:: Because he cost Boston Game 3 and his bat speed was clearly slow when he tried to turn on a fastball. They felt Ross was the better option at that point. It’s a major factor as to why they’re OK with letting Salty walk away.

  • Justin Jay

    JPA 2.0… slightly better model haha

    • Andrew van Laar

      Agreed

  • bluejays79

    to be honest I would rather see a trade with Wilson Ramos coming to the Bluejays. Remember when Salty had the yips or wtv they call that couple of years ago, He couldn’t throw the ball consistently to the pitcher?? I don’t think the kid is strong enough mentally to be a great addition to the team, even with JPA’s horrible stats.

    • Kyle Franzoni

      Personally, I’d like to see a healthy season out of Ramos before I invested in him, unless Washington is willing to let him go cheap.

    • Justin Jay

      Rube syndrome lol

    • Cybelle Mandell

      He’s strong enough mentally to play in Boston but not Toronto? The “yips” were the result of an injury. He’s been fine for some time.

      • Justin Jay

        He still has his moments, but agreed, he’s much better… and it was more than just injury. That’s how Texas masked the problem

  • brad

    I don’t get why people seem so low on Salty. Bad arm? Absolutely terrible, but let’s put that in context a little bit. Salty threw out 23% of base stealers and Yadier Molina threw out 46% last year. The average mlb team attempted 123.066 steals last year. Assuming that teams run on all catchers evenly(which isn’t necessarily a great assumption) the difference between salty and Molina’s arm amounts to about 28 outs over 162 games…. which in comparison to everything else a catcher does is about nothing.

    Then there’s the whole argument that last year was a career year and he is going to be over payed. Is that really so far-fetched for a 28 year old to get better? In his 3 years as a starter, he’s had a WRC+ of 95, 96 and 117 and he is a fantastic game caller. His BABIP is probably going to go down next year but a big reason it was so high last year was his LD% and low FB%.

    Is he going to be overpayed for a career year or underpayed(because of his not so productive past) for what is going to be a career norm? Hard to tell. I got him at .260/.310/.440 next year while continuing to call a good game, be a reasonably sound receiver, and two hop second base on half his throws.

    4 years, $35 million. Do it!

    • Justin Jay

      Well for one, bluejays79 raises the excellent point that Salty has issues with throwing the ball back to the pitcher. Also, the assumption can’t be made that all teams run on all catchers evenly because the likelihood somebody is going to run on Molina is much lower than that of Salty or JPA. In fact, JPA threw out runners at a higher rate than Salty last season.

      He is NOT a fantastic game caller. That’s why Beckett, Lester, Buchholz, and Wakefield all couldn’t use him. Varitek was a fantastic game caller. Ross is better at calling a game and pitchers in both Boston and Atlanta have raved about it.

      Don’t get me wrong, I like Salty. I think his bat isn’t bad, especially compared to JPA, but here’s the thing: If JPA ever learns the strike zone, and that’s a HUGE IF, he outhits Salty, hits more HRs than Salty and has a better wRC. Salty is better than JPA at calling a game, blocking a ball, and framing a pitch, but not much better… and to have 2 catchers that are that similar just doesn’t make sense. That’s why Salty’s signing doesn’t make sense, at least to me.

      • Cybelle Mandell

        Lester, Lackey, Buccholz spent all season raving about Salty’s game-calling and before he was chucked to LA Beckett even said he was doing “a great job.” He caught three CG’s last year, from Peavy, Lackey and Lester. He caught both ends of a double-header and the Sox won both games which is unusual. It takes time to learn game calling and Salty has greatly improved from year to year. Ross has almost a full decade of experience on him.

        • Justin Jay

          I won’t deny Salty’s gotten better in game calling. He had to. Boston, though, has had mixed feelings about Salty since Theo brought him in and this whole Non QO thing just goes to show how replaceable Boston finds him to be. He had tough shoes to fill replacing Tek, who was typically called the best game calling and most prepared catcher of the last decade. I have found that sometimes he’s unfairly criticized in Boston, unlike JP, who’s criticism has been more than earned… and I was one of his biggest defenders before I started writing on this site.

          Jarrod’s got 10 years of professional baseball, 6 at the major league level, the last 3 as the full time catcher. He’s had plenty of time to gain that experience and of course his teammates are going to say good things about him to the press. Again, however, you’re right. Salty’s game calling has improved. He is also a good clubhouse guy. He was one of the 4 taking in a Blue Jays game when the Red Sox had an off day before they played Toronto. He’s very well liked, but so is JP… though that might have taken a hit this season with the way he handled some criticism.

          Maybe you can say this too Cybelle, but living where I live, I practically watch every Red Sox game. I’ve seen enough of Salty to know bringing him into Toronto would only improve this team by a little. .235 and .225 can’t be forgotten in a season he hit .273. Remarkably, Jarrod has a higher K/AB % than JP, which is no small feat! He had 25 more walks than JP and JP only started trying to take walks by the 2nd half of the season. WOW… lol… let’s let that one sink in for a minute.

          They’re essentially the same catcher and that’s simplest of simple points. So why overpay for one when you can continue to try to fix the one you got that could possibly put out better offensive numbers and is MUCH cheaper? I feel the same way about Ianetta and Conger, which why I thought the Angel trade rumours were dumb. If the Jays are going to get a catcher, get one that is LEGITIMATELY BETTER… don’t just get somebody who’s like JP but doesn’t have JP in their name.

          • brad

            I want to come through my computer and beat u up for that varitek comment….. just. No…. well, maybe. But that isn’t “typical” talk outside Boston.

            Also, Boston has a pretty rough history when it comes to letting players go via free agency…. not sure I take the lack of QO at face value…. but I’m biased.

      • brad

        looooooong comment:

        I think that is really selling Salty short man.

        Screwing up a throw to the pitcher is pretty much horrible.. but again, are we really going to judge a catcher by something that happens so infrequently? They count those throws as errors…. of which salty had 6 last year and JP had 11(most in MLB). As for my admittedly poor assumption, you are correct, there is far less running on Molina. The choices were 1) neglecting both a pitching staff’s and catcher’s effect on discouraging steals or 2) considering both with the pitching staff effect as noise. For further context I’ll share the other way as well. Salty allowed 63 more base stealers and threw out 4 more runners than Molina for a total of 59 extra bases (People have run all over the sox for a long time so I would bet that stat has a bunch of pitcher fault in in too but we will disregard for the purposes of the point). If we say every 3 extra bases = 1 run and 10 runs equals 1 win, the difference in “arm caused” WAR between Salty(who is bad) and the best catcher in the last 2 decades(IMO) was 0.2 last year…. so pretty much nothing. and that’s using the higher of the 2 estimates!! Using the number in my first comment it is even lower. Conclusion: SB% is a horrible way to gauge a catcher’s overall defense…. but yes, salty’s is bad

        The real big one is game calling(and I’ll get there…. in a rambling mood it seems) but I would argue that blocking and pitch framing are also more important than throwing. JP, for all his faults, is actually a pretty reasonable pitch framer(though I think statistics skew the results a bit because he calls 80% of pitches on the fcking outside corner…..where it’s easiest to frame). Salty is also reasonably proficient. Call that a wash . Seem about even by the eye an I’m not sure how to justify either way numerically. As for blocking, no. Salty had just over half as many passed balls as JP did and 7 fewer wild pitches allowed. Salty is in the middle third of the MLB in blocking and JP is undeniably last….. if not worse.

        I also don’t think it’s fair to compare offense. JP was 4 at bats away from being maybe the worst qualified hitting catcher in the history of major league baseball(his wRC+ was 57 last year!!! fifty freaking seven!!!). JP’s high water average is .233 which Salty has surpassed in 5 of his 6 seasons(albeit in limited time for the first few). JPs BB% and OBP have gone down each season. In the same span, Salty’s have gone up. In 369 games the last 3 years, JP has hit 62 HRs with 189 RBI and a .410 slugging. In 345, salty has 55 with 180 RBI and a .457 slugging. Power looks pretty even to me with Salty having a far superior eye and hit tool.

        Finally, game calling. It’s a pretty subjective world here. All I really have to say is that JP calls way to many pitches 3 times in a row and did his team no favours last season IMO. As for Salty, he didn’t catch Wakefeild because he can’t catch a knuckle ball…. not because he couldn’t put the same finger down and his glove over the middle of the plate. As for Beckett, Lester and Bucholz, Salty’s middle of the pack 3.88 cERA just looks better and better game calling wise the less he caught the best pitchers on his team. I thought he did a damn good job the last few years but other than just watching and forming an opinion I really have no way to support that.

        In conclusion, I don’t think Salty and JP are similar at all. Salty has a better hit tool, a better eye, is a significantly better blocker and IMO a significantly better game caller. I would give him 4 years 35 million and trade JP rather than keeping him on the roster

        • Justin Jay

          Well I’m use to these from you haha. I’m known for a few myself.

          I’ll keep it simple. I’ve watched enough Sox games to know that Salty is a better catcher than JPA, but is a similar catcher to JPA. I agree with the better eye, the better stick (he originally was known to be a good hitting catcher, but so was JP), and yes, I know for a fact he can frame better than JP. But I have seen him make the same mental errors as JP. I can reference the Game 3 World Series play, but why? There are several more like that. I guess the only way to prove my point is by having the Jays sign him and then everybody in Toronto can see what I’m talking about. Stats don’t tell you everything about a player. It’s just one facet of the game. He’s JPA 2.0… slight upgrade.

          • brad

            I’ll defer to your expertise on the mental mistakes but I’m still not sure I can agree with you. I saw maybe 50 sox games last season and 2 things struck me about their catching. 1) Cody Ross is one of the best 5 defensive catchers in the MLB today and 2) Salty doesn’t get enough credit for his work behind the plate. I really liked his game calling but it’s sometimes hard to know if that’s just because he calls a game similar to how I would….. which didn’t get me to the MLB lolol….yet :P.

            The guy who makes mental mistakes can be fixed. The guy who has no feel for game calling(I sometimes think JP keeps some dice in his pocket and throws them between pitches to pick which finger to put down) or the strike zone(coin toss for swing/don’t swing) likely cannot. Salty is going to get over payed and isn’t a top tier catcher but he’s a great character/accountability guy and I think a significant upgrade over JP(same “type” of player but Salty’s floor is just under JP’s ceiling at this point)

          • Justin Jay

            Cody Ross is a Diamondback OF that once played RF for the Red Sox. Sept. 21, David Ross threw out 3 runners in 1 game. Guess against who? My 6 yo son and I watched that one 1st hand. Even he was like “Dad, that’s #3!”

            Agreed, Salty doesn’t get enough credit, but you can’t overpay for a guy that hit over .240 just twice in a season with over 300 ABs. He is clutch, but I’ve seen JP be clutch as well (just not the 2nd half of last season. Dreadful.) Jarrod’s had the tough task of living up to Varitek, who was considered the best. Salty gets criticized for not getting out of the crouch (like JP) and not doing things like Tek did them. It’s pretty unfair.

            My biggest gripe on JP, and it’s not the mental errors, is the way he receives the ball. Watch how he lets a FB on the corner of the plate take his glove out of the strike zone, costing the pitcher a strike. Umps aren’t suppose to call it that way, but on borderline pitches, they will. It drives me nuts. It’s like he can’t handle the pitch or he’s just not prepared for it. I can’t even let it pass if he was hitting the ball well. I’d say “Move him to 1st.” I feel it really hurts the pitching staff and that is where Salty would make the biggest difference. It’s just not worth millions more than what JP is making

          • brad

            lmao *David