The Toronto Blue Jays are nearing a deal with free agent catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, according to a report from Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi.
Ken Rosenthal reports that the deal will be a minor-league agreement, pending a physical.
Earlier Tuesday, Jerry Crasnick reported that the Blue Jays had expressed interest in the 31-year-old who spent the 2016 season with the Detroit Tigers.
Saltalamacchia is best known in Toronto for the time he spent with the Boston Red Sox from 2010 to 2013, which included a 25 home run season in 2012. While Saltalamacchia has struggled with plate discipline in the past, but his power has sustained his offensive value.
Defensively, Saltalamacchia’s value and pitch-framing abilities appear to have regressed in recent seasons, but his presence would give the Blue Jays a backup catching option that is above the league average and a notable upgrade from Josh Thole in 2016.
Last season with the Tigers, Saltalamacchia struggled to hit for average (.171) but managed to scrape out a .630 OPS thanks to 12 home runs in his 246 at-bats.
Coming in on a minor-league deal, Saltalamacchia will have the clear inside track to stick on the 25-man roster ahead of A.J. Jimenez as the primary backup behind Russell Martin.
Without R.A. Dickey in the rotation — necessitating a specialist behind the plate — manager John Gibbons would be able to manage Martin’s innings more freely and align both catchers with the best matchups possible.
Martin spent more innings behind the plate in 2016 than he has since 2009, and entering the final three years of his contract ($20 million salary annually), the Blue Jays’ backup catching position will have increased importance as they work to keep their star fresh.