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Free Agent Pass or Play: Jarrod Saltalamacchia

Posted by Ian Riccaboni, Tue, October 22, 2013 04:00 PM | Comments: 10
Features, Free Agency, Free Agent: Pass or Play 2013, Offseason, Opinion

http://cdn.bleacherreport.net/images_root/slides/photos/003/215/020/hi-res-170342025_crop_650.jpg?1371379700Each day until free agency begins, we at Phillies Nation will take a look at a player who will become a free agent five days after the World Series’ conclusion. We will explore potential performance, fit, cost, and feasibility. Today, we will start with World Series-bound catcher, Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

Performance

Saltalamacchia, or Salty as he is known to Sox fans, was a first round draft pick of the Braves in 2003 out of high school. Saltalamacchia did not disappoint in the minors and was named Baseball America’s #18 prospect in 2006 and #36 prospect in 2007. The Braves’ aggressive placement of Salty, and his performance in response to it, saw him make his MLB debut on his 22nd birthday against the Philadelphia Phillies.

Salty was packaged with Elvis Andrus, Neftali Feliz, and Matt Harrison by the Braves and sent to the Texas Rangers in a mega-deal for Ron Mahay and Mark Teixeira on July 31 of that same year. Salty struggled to stay in the Majors from 2007 through 2010 but finally showed much of the promised potential in 2011, earning about half of the plate appearances for the Red Sox.

In the last three seasons, Salty has hit .244/.306/.457, averaging over 18 HR a season in just 1304 PA. His 40 2B in 2013 were easily a career high and, combined with his 14 HR, powered him to career highs in all of the triple-slash categories in 2013 (.273/.338/.446 in 470 PA).  Salty has remained mostly healthy through each of the past three seasons and will enter 2014 at just 28 years old. For those into WAR, FanGraphs has Salty at 1.6, 1.9, and 3.6 Wins Above Replacement for each of the last three seasons, putting him in the conversation as a first-division regular and trending upward nicely. The performance increase, however, should be considered with a heavy dose of caution when considering his sky-high .372 BABIP – he was likely good but also incredibly lucky in 2013.

Fit

Depending on what happens with Carlos Ruiz, Salty could be a fit with the Phillies line-up. Saltalamacchia is a switch-hitting catcher but the downside to Salty is that much of his success comes as a lefty against righties (.263/.327/.469). Salty is actually quite poor against lefty as a righty (.206/.267/.332), a mark that is solidly below replacement level. A platoon with him and righties Erik Kratz or Cameron Rupp could work but I would have reservations about signing a potentially $10-12 million a year player to platoon him.

Cost

According to the awesome FanGraphs crowd-sourcing project, Salty is likely in line for somewhere between $10-12 million per year for about a four year commitment.

Feasibility

Saltalamacchia could easily fit into the Phillies offseason budget should their payroll remain close to the number they posted last year and would not hamstring them. According to ESPN, the Phillies spent approximately $170 million last season and will have $25 million coming off the books in Roy Halladay and Chooch alone. There will also be minor savings from the releases of John Lannan and Delmon Young.

Verdict: Play

Salty is absolutely worth considering. While he may not be a true three-and-a-half win player, he likely has a floor of a two win player. Each of the last three seasons, Salty has improved considerably and, while it is difficult to measure defensive performance for catchers, he has graded increasingly favorably behind the plate. The hesitation comes because he cannot hit left-handed pitchers at all and, with Chase Utley, Domonic Brown, and Ryan Howard all hitting left-handed, he could compound a problem instead of solving it. Still, Salty is a young player who is entering the peak years of his career that is worth exploring at a four year, $40 million pact.

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About Ian Riccaboni

Ian Riccaboni has written 783 articles on Phillies Nation.

Ian's athletic achievements include getting stuffed by NBA center Aaron Gray in high school and hitting .179 over four years for NYU against D-III, NAIA, JuCo, and NCBA schools. Ian hopes his athletic successes will help him achieve his dream of becoming the underground Bob Uecker.

 
 
  • Posts: 0 bacardipr

    Im not sure his rookie year and current season #’s where good but had a few shaky seasons.

     
  • Posts: 0 Alec Kostival

    I wouldn’t mind seeing salty in phillies’ red but I feel 4 years is a little long. The phillies still have guys in the minors that have potential and I believe that one of them may be ymready before those 4 yrs are up. I’d be good with a 2 yr contract.

     
  • Posts: 0 Bart Shart

    Get real. Four years and $4 million. No way. we have home-grown talent. Let’s give them a chance.PASS

     
  • Posts: 0 DavidE

    I don’t know about 10M per year. But if you play him against RHP and generally play either Ruiz, Kratz or Rupp against RHP, then maybe it works. I don’t think the Phillies can outbid the Red Sox or the Yankees who are reportedly interested in McCann.

     
  • Posts: 0 Ryne Duren

    Sign chooch to 1yr with a 2cd as a mutual option. That will allow the Phillies to get some of our younger catchers a chance to acclimate themselves into a larger role. So that would be a big PASS! If we’re not going to contend there’s no reason for spending 10m on a free agent catcher. And chooch is better anyway. Even at his age.

     
  • Posts: 0 George

    “much of his success comes as a righty against lefties (.263/.327/.469).”
    “he cannot hit left-handed pitchers at all.”

    So which is the correct statement?

     
  • Posts: 0 wbramh

    “Salty is actually quite poor against lefty as a righty (.206/.267/.332)”

    Makes me wonder whether some switch-hitters wouldn’t be better off remaining in their more natural stance than automatically adjusting to the pitcher’s arm. Bouncing back and forth may cause as much interruption to a batter’s comfort level as it does giving them an edge picking up the ball. Plus lefties are not uniformly difficult to hit for left-handed batters and vice versa.
    You’d think there would be times to go with your natural strength and not get too cute.
    Perhaps it would only get worse to avoid the switch but an overly dramatic drop in stats in one position would be a clue something’s not working..

     
  • Posts: 0 wbramh

    I think Saltalamacchia could be a positive pick up but the money and years seem high, especially for a guy who would likely start few games if the line-up remains left-handed heavy. He appears to be a 2.5 million max type of guy no matter what an inflated market might actually bring him. You’d think one among the little wave of young “promising” catchers currently in the system could become a “Salty” in another year or two. Maybe not.

    That said, there appears to be a current dearth of MLB-quality catchers around the league. Plus, “Salty” has size, some power – and I like his nickname. If he can call a good game and has a strong arm he would be an upgrade over the team’s current backups for Ruiz since most of the catchers currently in the system seem to be struggling to stay above the Martinez line at the plate.

     
 
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