The Blue Jays *may* have found their back up catcher for 2017 according to Shi Davidi of Sportsnet and Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports. The team and C Jarrod Saltalamacchia are nearing an agreement on a minor league deal that will pay Salty $1.25M if he makes the majors, plus an additional $250K in incentives. The deal is pending a physical.
Source: Saltalamacchia signing minor-league deal with #BlueJays, $1.25M if in majors, plus $250K in incentives. Deal pending physical.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) January 24, 2017
Saltalamacchia, 31, has been in the league since 2007, and is most known for his power. For his career, he has averaged 20 home runs per 162 games with a triple slash line of .234/.309/.413. In 2016, playing for the Detroit Tigers, he hit 12 home runs with a .239 TAv in 92 games played, but hit much better in 2015 with Arizona (.280 TAv). Of particular value is that he is a career .244/.322/.440 hitter vs. RHP. Given Russell Martin’s proficiency against lefties, this would allow the Blue Jays to mix and match Martin’s day’s off to put out an ideal lineup.
Salty’s number one quality, of course, is not being Josh Thole, the lacklustre catcher the Blue Jays were forced to carry since 2013 because of R.A. Dickey and his knuckleball. With Dickey gone, the Blue Jays were able to upgrade at a position they previously were held hostage on, a net positive for the 2017 club. Saltalamacchia’s downfall offensively is his high strikeout total, which is to be expected from somebody who gives up contact ability for the choice to hit for power.
Defensively, Saltalamacchia has had a few good framing seasons by the numbers, but none the past few years, making it likely he is subpar at this point in his career. His arm is the same, as he has always had trouble throwing baserunners out.
This move likely means recently claimed catcher Juan Graterol and Blue Jays farmhand A.J. Jimenez will be sharing time in AAA Buffalo, standing by in case of injury to Saltalamacchia or starter Russell Martin. Jimenez, however, is out of options, so he would have to clear waivers before being sent down once more to Buffalo, and as he has already been outrighted once, could elect free agency. It was expected that if the Blue Jays didn’t add another catcher, those two would fight it out for the second catching job, but it now looks like they will be facing off with Saltalamacchia instead, who would be considered a favourite to land the job.
All that being said, according to a club source, the team might end up going with prospect Reese McGuire in the role instead, hoping he shows enough in Spring Training to bring his fantastic defensive skills on board. The club’s first choice for the role was Chris Iannetta according to the source (but he wanted a better chance to start and signed with the Diamondbacks), with a secondary group of Salty, Dioner Navarro, and Brayan Pena behind him.
Overall, there is always no such thing as a bad minor league deal, and if Saltalamacchia shows enough in March to win the job, then the Blue Jays will be pleased. The Blue Jays remaining holes stand in left field and in the bullpen, with the club hoping to add another left handed reliever. It remains to be seen how they will address those issues, but some clarity should come soon with pitchers and catchers reporting in just over three weeks.
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