Twins Chasing Top Catcher Jarrod Saltalmacchia?
7. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C, free agent — Salty is still very much on the Twins’ radar as they try to replace Joe Mauer after his move to first base. Saltalamacchia could get a three-year deal in the $30 million range, which would seem to be a no-brainer for a team looking for a switch-hitting, power-hitting catcher at age 28.
As mentioned above, Saltalamacchia is a 28-year-old switch-hitting catcher who has hit 55 home run over the last three years with the Red Sox (which explains why this report is coming from a Boston newspaper). His OPS over those 3 years is .763, which would've been second on the Twins last year. Overall, those numbers about match what Ryan Doumit did back in 2012, which is very solid.
This surprises me. I'm not surprised the Twins would try to sign a catcher, but it surprises me they would commit that kind of time and dollars to a catcher with Josmil Pinto, who was called up in September and thrived, on the verge of the major leagues. I guess I see a couple possibilities:
1) The Twins liked the "half-time" arrangement they had the last couple years with Ryan Doumit and Mauer, and would like to do the same with Pinto and Saltalamacchia. It would keep both well-rested and both can hit enough to be the designated hitter when they're not catching. I think you could say the same about AJ Pierzynski, to whom the Twins have also been linked.
It would also allow Saltalamacchia and Doumit (if he can catch) to split time this year, giving Pinto some time in AAA, and then Pinto takes Doumit's spot on the roster when his contract ends at the end of this year.
2) I wonder if they would sign Saltalamacchia and then make Pinto available in a trade for young pitching? For whatever reason, the Twins have never seemed to be very high on Pinto. They could view now as a "sell high" opportunity. They might be right and it's interesting to think about just what kind of return they could get for him.
With catcher Brian McCann being signed yesterday by the Yankees for $85 million over five years, Saltalamacchia is the best remaining catcher on the free agent market. In the Offseason Handbook, we estimated he would sign for 3 years and $24 million, and there was a lot of internal debate about that number. It'll be interesting to see if the Twins will be willing to pay what the market will bear.
I'd love to see it, and not just because it isn't my money. To me, signing Saltalamacchia would represent a proactive instead of reactive move, giving the Twins some flexibility and time, as well as improving the offense. I'd still rather they go after pitching, but it's rare to nab a guy who is just 28 years old in free agency, especially one with Saltalamacchia's performance record. If this doesn't get in the way of adding another pitcher (and I don't think it does), it's a savvy move.