The Saltalamacchia Conundrum

What do you do with Jarrod Saltalamacchia? If his second half failings of 2012 were repeated, it would be a rather moot point – just let him play the market and determine if you wish to enter the bidding sweepstakes. 2013 has changed that. So far, no crash and burn.

Aug 13, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Boston Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia (39) heads for second on a double in the fifth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at the Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Salty, to save wear and tear on a keyboard, is having a nice offensive run. Sure he rings up the K’s at a frustrating 31% rate, but he is hitting. His stat line of .270/.339/.789 will not bring back memories of Carlton Fisk, but certainly is in the range of a Jason Varitek. Toss in his extra base totals and consistent second half numbers and you have someone in the upper echelon of AL offensive catcher stats.

Defensively I examine the metrics and see some ominous minus signs appear but is it that bad? Salty is in the middle of the AL pack (Qualified) defensively. Not bad. His CS% is 20% but has been as high as 31% in his Sox tenure. Not a defensive deal breaker to me. His CERA (Catcher ERA) is 3.97. His defensive WAR is a 0.0. There may be no Golden Glove or Silver Slugger in Salty’s future but what you do have is a competent catcher.

I view this as a conundrum for management. Do you break the bank for a Brian McCann? Do you let him walk and move on? Do you risk the chance that you will have an opportunity to counter offer? Frankly, Ryan Lavarnway does instill a bit of angst for this observer. The remaining minor league crop appears a few seasons away from being a significant factor, so the current tandem of Salty and David Ross might just be the way to go.

Since I have no insight into the negotiation war room of Sox management I will take that leap of faith and assume the Sox have a desire to retain his services. Salty had been on their target list since back in his Atlanta days, so the attachment is there. Salty has also professed a desire to remain here and that could be a big plus for Boston in the negotiation game. This may be one of those situations once where market value is established negotiations begin with Boston. The figures seem reasonable they may just re-up Salty.

Salty is in the right place at the right time regarding his free agency. A catcher having a productive season. His age – 29 – makes longer contract years less of a risk and that works in his favor.

On a personal note, I have grown rather fond of Salty and wish him well here or elsewhere.

Topics: Boston Red Sox, Jarrod Saltalamacchia

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  • Willy W

    I dont see it as a conundrum at all, not even close. What I believe the Sox will do & I hope they will is, 1. offer arbitration, 2. let Salty walk, 3. use the draft pick, 4. turn around & sign McCann who theyve always liked. Then it will be McCann & Ross as our Catchers next year. I could see the Sox then trade Lavarnway to free up room for Butler & Vasquez.

    If anyone is interested I have a Boston Sports Blog, Go to http://www.WillysTeam.com Click on “Magazine” for best Viewing. A Safe site. Thanks!

    • Rick M.

      Nice site, Willy.

      The conundrum is the new system. Do you qualify a player who has had an above average year based on his previous performance? Based on the 2012 figure of 13.3M Salty could jump at that.

      Would someone risk losing their pick over signing him? Sox would best be served by letting him explore the market and then checking the price tag. Tough to predict the market in stocks or baseball. That acceptance period will be enjoyable.

      My assumption is that McCann will be qualified since he is at 12M now. Sox signing McCann means their pick is gone unless it is a top ten. Atlanta will get a sandwich round pick.

  • John Cate

    They should keep him around. This shouldn’t even be up for discussion. Just don’t let him hit right-handed, EVER.

    Salty’s defense has improved to around league average, and it’s documented that the pitchers like working with him, and that matters too. Plus, his offense is above-average for a catcher. But the most important thing, to my way of seeing it, is that he’s going to end the season with only about 520-530 career games at catcher on his legs. He’s a young 28 for a catcher, turning 29 in May 2014.

    Compare that to McCann. He’s going to hit free agency at about 1,050 career games caught, and will be 30 by the time the next season begins. And, as his 2012 and his slow start to 2013 showed, he’s already showing the offensive inconsistency you see in high-mileage catchers. He’s going to cost more than Salty will, probably a lot more, but I’d be willing to bet you right now that Salty’s next five seasons will be more productive than McCann’s will.

    • Rick M.

      Good point on the wear and tear. Looking at those RH/LH splits you can see why Ross was signed up. Be interesting to see the contract years he may seek.

    • Michael Macaulay-Birks

      makes sense to me…I agree 100%

  • John Fahrer

    Keeping Saltalamacchia seems more likely at this point than handing the job to Lavarnway. They didn’t play him much when he was up for the last few months so it appears there’s not much faith in him. The fact that he hasn’t put up the power numbers he did a couple years back is alarming too.