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  • Twins Chasing Top Catcher Jarrod Saltalmacchia?

    In his Sunday notes column, Boston Globe sportswriter Nick Cafardo mentioned that the Minnesota Twins continue to be pursuing catchers to replace Joe Mauer. And not just any catcher - the top remaining free agent catcher:

    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.
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Cafardo: Twins on Salty started by twinscowboysbulls View original post
    Comments 210 Comments
    1. USAFChief's Avatar
      USAFChief -
      I would be a big fan of this move. Do it.
    1. maxisagod's Avatar
      maxisagod -
      For free agent targets, he may be a good one, not in terms of ability or lack of ability but sign ability. Having won a championship and without having a long tenure with his pervious team, I'd suspect his number one priority is getting playing time and getting paid, something the Twins can offer. I don't think his signing would prohibit the Twins from signing pitching, my biggest concern is Pinto's playing time.
    1. Boom Boom's Avatar
      Boom Boom -
      I think the Twins could use another catcher because I'm not sold on Pinto yet and I don't want Doumit catching at all. The length of contract Saltalamacchia will get gives me some pause.

      The money the Twins might spend on a catcher shouldn't get in the way of their search for pitching.
    1. goulik's Avatar
      goulik -
      The Twins do not have a can't miss prospect at most positions and especially not catcher. People concerned about financials and signing a 10 million dollar position player need to take the time to research the financial situation, salary commitments and available money over the next 5 years before complaining that we need to save it for pitching. I am tired of that arguement every time a non pitcher is discussed. We can sign three starters at 15 million each and still sign this guy and be within budget and not harming future...
    1. Marta Shearing's Avatar
      Marta Shearing -
      Why on earth spend big money on a catcher? Ridiculous. Sign AJ or Buck for a year and load up on pitching. For goodness sakes, what more does Pinto have to prove? Sure maybe he's not a finished product, but let him learn on the job. Its not like they're contending in 2014 anyway.
    1. SpiritofVodkaDave's Avatar
      SpiritofVodkaDave -
      If we can sign Salty (which I am 100% for) we suddenly have some nice pieces/depth at every position for 2015+ with the exception of SS and/or DH (if that counts)
    1. IdahoPilgrim's Avatar
      IdahoPilgrim -
      IIRC during the world series, weren't they talking some about his clubhouse leadership skills and ability to adjust to and work with a pitching staff? Given the young nature of our staff (and team in general once the kids replace the old guys) that in itself might be worth making this move.
    1. goulik's Avatar
      goulik -
      Quote Originally Posted by Marta Shearing View Post
      Why on earth spend big money on a catcher? Ridiculous. Sign AJ or Buck for a year and load up on pitching. For goodness sakes, what more does Pinto have to prove? Sure maybe he's not a finished product, but let him learn on the job. Its not like they're contending in 2014 anyway.
      Pinto has proven as much as Plouffe, Parmalee, Hicks, Colabello and Gibson. That means he has been good as a minor leaguer but not proven it yet at the MLB level. Septembers sample shows he has potential but not that he should be anointed the long term catcher with no competition. I have no problem with bringing him up and giving him a shot. I have a problem of not having a viable catcher and if he fails, we do not have one at all.

      The point is it can't hurt, it does help, so why not? If you were talking more than two to three years I would question it. I just don't see a problem with having two good players at a position forcing you to trade one. Ladies and gentlemen, that is a good thing not a problem! Sign him! That is what good teams do! They don't wing it on the prayer that the prospect will pan out!
    1. AllhopeisgoneMNTWINS's Avatar
      AllhopeisgoneMNTWINS -
      Not a big fan of this move if it happens. Salty has always underperformed and thats why he has bounced around in his career. Spend the money on pitching. Although im not sold on Pinto lets see what he's got, were so bad anyway would signing Salty make a difference?NO
    1. Bark's Lounge's Avatar
      Bark's Lounge -
      If Saltalamacchia signed with the Twins, like most, at the onset of the signing I would be pretty stoked.

      After that, I would start thinking about how he was non-existent offensively in Arlington, Texas, which is a ball park that is more than offensive friendly. When Boston acquired him, it seemed to rejuvenate his hitting ability, but Fenway is also an excellent ballpark to have some fun things happen with the bat.

      I don't know what happened in Texas and it was nice to see a former top prospect find his groove in Boston.

      My fear is that Target Field will neutralize his offensive game and he will be a total wash.

      I don't know Salty's splits and someone can certainly call me out and prove me wrong on this one.

      He is too risky to sign @ 30M for 3 years. A number I fully expect him to get.
    1. frightwig's Avatar
      frightwig -
      Although Pinto struggled a bit when first introduced to Class A levels, after crushing it in Rookie league, he went on to really rake the ball in the last 2 seasons at all levels from High A to the majors (at age 23-24). He doesn't look to me like someone who needs to be sold off before he turns into a pumpkin. The Steamer projection at Fangraphs has him for .257/.319/.404, 100 wRC+, 2.0 WAR next year. At age 25, now is the time to let Pinto play and see what they have in him. If he meets that Steamer projection, they should certainly be happy with him.

      Saltalamacchia, on the other hand, is coming off a career year at age 28. If he keeps it up for a few more years, he'd be worth $10M/yr. But if it turns out to be a fluke year and he reverts to prior performance levels, the Twins would be paying $10M/yr. for a catcher who's probably no better than Pinto would be at around 5% the price. And Saltalamacchia is four years older, too.

      If they're trading Pinto for really good pitching, and signing Saltalamacchia to replace him, that's one thing. I'd still worry that the Twins were buying high on Saltalamacchia, but could live with it if I liked the pitching Ryan brought in with the Pinto deal. But if they're shopping for a new starting catcher just because they don't trust Pinto to play 110+ games next year, so they plan to have him share the job or even begin the season at AAA, that's just stupid. A stupid waste of financial resources, and a stupid waste of Pinto.
    1. howieramone's Avatar
      howieramone -
      Pinto has been in the Twins Organization for 8 years. They may do something you do not personally agree with, but it won't be stupid. Sharing duties with the top remaining free agent catcher instead of throwing him to the wolves makes a lot of sense. IMO Salty and Pinto helps make our favorite team, strong up the middle.
    1. kab21's Avatar
      kab21 -
      Quote Originally Posted by mudcat14 View Post
      My question, if Mauer was so good and it's so important, why has our pitching staff been at the bottom of the league for three years running?
      A) Mauer's catching skills had declined even before he moved. He was terrible at stopping balls in the dirt although he was probably pretty good at framing pitches.

      B) Mauer caught less than 1/2 of the games over the last 3 years while Doumit caught 50+ games in his two seasons.

      C) The catcher can only do so much. The pitchers have been awful. having Doumit behind the plate didn't help though.

      I'm not against a guy like A.J. but Salty is my preferred target even if he reverts to .235/.300/.450. That's fine for a catcher that seems to be solid behind the plate. 3/30 is not going to block the Twins from getting any pitcher that they really want.
    1. SpiritofVodkaDave's Avatar
      SpiritofVodkaDave -
      Additionally it would be nice to see the Twins actually buying high on a player for once, instead of scraping the bottom of the barrel for guys way past their primes.
    1. howeda7's Avatar
      howeda7 -
      I'd rather spend $30 million on pitching. I feel Pinto and Hermann can handle the catching spot, even if Doumit is now a full-time DH. However, it fairly obvious we're not going to spend anywhere near $30 million pitching, so sure what the heck. I expect them to neither.
    1. StormJH1's Avatar
      StormJH1 -
      I freaking hate this. It's nothing against Salty, per se - I actually liked him and followed him as a Texas prospect for fantasy baseball reasons. But barely over a year ago, the guy couldn't even crack the majors because of the yips:

      http://sports.yahoo.com/mlb/blog/big...urn=mlb,242145

      I don't buy him as a defensive catcher, and given his body type, I doubt he finishes even a 3-year deal as an "everyday catcher" (or 120-game catcher, since everyday catchers don't really exist).

      His power is almost exclusively from the left side, and good luck with that at Target Field as opposed to Fenway. Yes, he offers raw dumb power at the catcher position, which is "scarce", but not scarce enough to make this guy a $30 million signing. And it's made even more insanely stupid when you consider that a platoon of Pinto and Doumit (or go get a cheaper defensive catcher if you want another veteran option) could very possible offer the same production as Salty from both sides of the plate.

      This just reeks to me at the Twins having a distrust of young Latin players at the "smart positions", namely catcher, SS, and 2B. Josmil Pinto could be Yadier Molina and this team would still look for a more "trustworthy" veteran presence.

      And even if you don't agree with ANY of that, it will almost certainly eat up the vast majority of the FA budget, which NEEDS to be spent on starting pitching. Saying that we need 3 starters instead of just 1 isn't a viable argument at chipping away at the problem in any way possible.
    1. gobirds's Avatar
      gobirds -
      Quote Originally Posted by IdahoPilgrim View Post
      IIRC during the world series, weren't they talking some about his clubhouse leadership skills and ability to adjust to and work with a pitching staff? Given the young nature of our staff (and team in general once the kids replace the old guys) that in itself might be worth making this move.
      Are you thinking of David Ross? He started the last 2 or 3 games of the Series. The announcers said the Sox just liked the way he handled the pitchers better. I think Salty has more of a rep as an offensive catcher.
    1. SpiritofVodkaDave's Avatar
      SpiritofVodkaDave -
      Quote Originally Posted by StormJH1 View Post
      This just reeks to me at the Twins having a distrust of young Latin players at the "smart positions", namely catcher, SS, and 2B. Josmil Pinto could be Yadier Molina and this team would still look for a more "trustworthy" veteran presence.
      Give me a freaking break. Can we stop with these notions that the Twins are somehow racist or whatever?
    1. kab21's Avatar
      kab21 -
      Quote Originally Posted by StormJH1 View Post
      I freaking hate this. It's nothing against Salty, per se - I actually liked him and followed him as a Texas prospect for fantasy baseball reasons. But barely over a year ago, the guy couldn't even crack the majors because of the yips:

      http://sports.yahoo.com/mlb/blog/big...urn=mlb,242145

      I don't buy him as a defensive catcher, and given his body type, I doubt he finishes even a 3-year deal as an "everyday catcher" (or 120-game catcher, since everyday catchers don't really exist).

      His power is almost exclusively from the left side, and good luck with that at Target Field as opposed to Fenway. Yes, he offers raw dumb power at the catcher position, which is "scarce", but not scarce enough to make this guy a $30 million signing. And it's made even more insanely stupid when you consider that a platoon of Pinto and Doumit (or go get a cheaper defensive catcher if you want another veteran option) could very possible offer the same production as Salty from both sides of the plate.

      This just reeks to me at the Twins having a distrust of young Latin players at the "smart positions", namely catcher, SS, and 2B. Josmil Pinto could be Yadier Molina and this team would still look for a more "trustworthy" veteran presence.

      And even if you don't agree with ANY of that, it will almost certainly eat up the vast majority of the FA budget, which NEEDS to be spent on starting pitching. Saying that we need 3 starters instead of just 1 isn't a viable argument at chipping away at the problem in any way possible.
      Some corrections are needed.

      He has spent 3 seasons starting over half of the Red Sox games. Your link must be from >3 years ago.

      In his down seasons he still has put up a .740ish OPS.

      He doesn't have ridiculous home/away splits.

      Fenway is not an easy place for a lefty to hit either. It has a reputation as a hitter's park due to the Green Monster in left field.
    1. Craig in MN's Avatar
      Craig in MN -
      If this was anyone other than Terry Ryan, I would think he was trying to keep the rumors out there to keep Saltalamachia's asking price high in hopes of team wanting to trade for Doumit instead. I could imagine a team loosing out on Salty and asking about Doumit....especially a team with a tight budget. They're not that far apart in quality, and Doumit's a third the price and a third of the years.
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