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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. SpiritofVodkaDave's Avatar
      SpiritofVodkaDave -
      Quote Originally Posted by Craig in MN View Post
      I'm not talking about Doumit playing catcher for this team. I am talking about there being a team that might settle for Doumit and the Twins trading him to them. And if anyone expects Salty to be a 3 WAR player, they are fooling themselves....I'd bet it will be less than 2. He has had exactly one 2+ WAR year in his career, and that was last year and fueled by an extreme BABIP. For their careers, both Doumit and Salty average about 1 WAR per year.

      Salty is more at his peak, and Doumit more on the downside, and Salty is obviously an overall better player for next year. But Salty is trying to sign for 3+ years for a ton of money. In three years, I bet he's a worse player than Doumit is now, and even less deserving of playing time. I don't want to sign up for that.
      If Doumit isn't good enough to play catcher for one of the worst teams in baseball (twins) then what makes you think some other team would settle for him and play him at catcher?

      In re: Salty: Apparently Steamer's projections are foolish since they have him as a 2.9 WAR player next year.

      I'd glady take a wager on Salty's 2016 year vs Doumits 2014 year.
    1. jay's Avatar
      jay -
      Quote Originally Posted by SpiritofVodkaDave View Post
      I'm sorry, what does Trevor Plouffe have to do with any of this? If Plouffe was a good defensive catcher then I suppose the comparison would make sense.

      Heck if Plouffe was even good defensively I suppose that comparison would at least be a tiny bit relevant, however, Plouffe has been poor defensively at third base and has only put up a combined 0.1 WAR in the last 3 years. Additionally, the average third baseman hits quite a bit better than the average catcher.

      It's comparing apples and oranges at this point.
      Right on. The defensive and positional differences don't give much credence to high-level offense comparisons. Salty is like 70 points above the OPS average for catchers while Plouffe is like 15 points below the average 3B. That's significant.
    1. Craig in MN's Avatar
      Craig in MN -
      Quote Originally Posted by SpiritofVodkaDave View Post
      If Doumit isn't good enough to play catcher for one of the worst teams in baseball (twins) then what makes you think some other team would settle for him and play him at catcher?

      In re: Salty: Apparently Steamer's projections are foolish since they have him as a 2.9 WAR player next year.

      I'd glady take a wager on Salty's 2016 year vs Doumits 2014 year.
      I didn't say that Doumit isn't good enough to play catcher for the Twins. I just think he's a better fit at DH, where they also have an opening. He might fit differently on a different team.

      I do think that Steamer projection is foolish.
    1. Steve Penz's Avatar
      Steve Penz -
      I don't have the attention span to read 4 pages of comments so please forgive if this is a repeat. The length of the contract is what concerns me. This seems like a guy that (if he played well) would be catching a lot of games. I get that they might want to ease in Pinto because he does have a lot to prove but what if he plays well? In 2015 you have two catchers who would want to catch 100+ games. I think a player with a shorter contract is better. Ideal situation would be for Pinto to work out and to catch 100+ games in 2015 while another guy fills in the rest. Is Saltalmacchia that guy? I don't think so.
    1. LimestoneBaggy's Avatar
      LimestoneBaggy -
      If I was a GM, and I wanted AJ on a one-year deal, I certainly would be publicly kicking the tires on "Salty". Not that I believe that's what's happening here, but I would be doing it.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      Not sure how a guy with his offenisve and baserunning and defensive skills loses "a ton" of value from the switch to LF.....sure, LF generally contribute less defensively than CF, but even if you took off a half a win from his WAR for the shift, he'd still have the 7th highest WAR in the game. I'm baffled that people think moving to a large LF in Target field, and catching a lot of flyballs from this staff has such little value.

      Yup, it would be a ton of money, but it's hard to find a safter player to sign right now. He helps the offense, he helps the defense.

      But, I understand, people don't agree, and would rather watch Pressley or Hicks "hit and field" and use teh money on pitchers that are not likely to be as valuable.
    1. johnnydakota's Avatar
      johnnydakota -
      Quote Originally Posted by Craig in MN View Post
      I didn't say that Doumit isn't good enough to play catcher for the Twins. I just think he's a better fit at DH, where they also have an opening. He might fit differently on a different team.

      I do think that Steamer projection is foolish.
      Ok let me say it ... Doumit is at best a backup and even that is barely an option with his latest concussion, as for him playing the outfield ...it should never ever happen again....find a taker for him and upgrade with Jones as a rightfielder/1b/DH
    1. SpiritofVodkaDave's Avatar
      SpiritofVodkaDave -
      Quote Originally Posted by mike wants wins View Post
      Not sure how a guy with his offenisve and baserunning and defensive skills loses "a ton" of value from the switch to LF.....sure, LF generally contribute less defensively than CF, but even if you took off a half a win from his WAR for the shift, he'd still have the 7th highest WAR in the game. I'm baffled that people think moving to a large LF in Target field, and catching a lot of flyballs from this staff has such little value.

      Yup, it would be a ton of money, but it's hard to find a safter player to sign right now. He helps the offense, he helps the defense.

      But, I understand, people don't agree, and would rather watch Pressley or Hicks "hit and field" and use teh money on pitchers that are not likely to be as valuable.
      The problem isn't Ellsbury, its the fact you would have to give him at least 6 years (7 most likely), where he is most certainly going to lose value on the base paths and defensively during that time. Additionally there are injury questions with him as well, which alone doesn't make him a safer "player"

      If you could get him for 3-4 years, then by all means grab him, but Ellsbury isn't the type of guy the Twins need to be handing out $153+ million to, especially when you have Buxton waiting in the wings.

      And yes, moving Ellsbury to LF takes away a lot of his value as CF is the 2nd or 3rd hardest position (behind C, SS) and LF is the easiest or 2nd easiest (1B and RF are the same more or less)
    1. SpiritofVodkaDave's Avatar
      SpiritofVodkaDave -
      Quote Originally Posted by Craig in MN View Post
      I didn't say that Doumit isn't good enough to play catcher for the Twins. I just think he's a better fit at DH, where they also have an opening. He might fit differently on a different team.

      I do think that Steamer projection is foolish.
      Got it, so all the experts who say that Salty is a good catcher, all the stats that back it up and the projections which year in and year out are very accurate are all foolish.

      Meanwhile a guy that hit .710 and has no baserunning or defensive value anywhere is going to be a legit option for teams as a DH?

      Don't get me wrong, I like Doumit and I think he can rebound a bit, however at this stage he is nothing more than a backup/nice bench bat and/or possibly a one year stop gap at DH/1B for a team, however you aren't going to get anything of value for that. You'd be much better off just taking a flyer on Corey Hart.
    1. Rosterman's Avatar
      Rosterman -
      At some of the prices mentioned, he is a viable alternative. A.J. would be a one-year deal. But if Pinto isn't ready or the real deal after that, the Twins are looking for two catchers come 2015.

      If they sign a front line catcher for multiple years, they have Doumit as backup and Pinto/Herrmann in reserve for this season. Pinto can catch prospects at AAA. When you come to 2015, you have Salt and can work in Pinto, or even let Pinto work more if his 2014 AAA season isn't stellar. If it is, you have tradebait at a reasonable price in Salt.

      It's called strengthening a weak position with someone that will make up for some of the so-called first base hitting weaknesses Mauer will bring to that position by giving us more power behind-the-plate.

      The age factor is surreal. Only 28. Sign him for three and he is still 31. And he'll produce, because his next contract would be really big!
    1. SpiritofVodkaDave's Avatar
      SpiritofVodkaDave -
      Or if Pinto somehow proves to be an everyday catcher/stud. You can always trade Salty away sometime in 2015/2016. Or you could trade Pinto away for premium player(s)

      This would be a GREAT problem to have.
    1. Hartzy34's Avatar
      Hartzy34 -
      I'm a big believer that a guy is at his athletic peak between the ages of 28 - 32. Let's get him on-board for 3, 4 years until Pinto hits that period. Sounds like a perfect signing to me. Of course #1 & #2 on my list of signings are pitchers. This would be #3 for me.
    1. Craig in MN's Avatar
      Craig in MN -
      Quote Originally Posted by SpiritofVodkaDave View Post
      Got it, so all the experts who say that Salty is a good catcher, all the stats that back it up and the projections which year in and year out are very accurate are all foolish.

      Meanwhile a guy that hit .710 and has no baserunning or defensive value anywhere is going to be a legit option for teams as a DH?

      Don't get me wrong, I like Doumit and I think he can rebound a bit, however at this stage he is nothing more than a backup/nice bench bat and/or possibly a one year stop gap at DH/1B for a team, however you aren't going to get anything of value for that. You'd be much better off just taking a flyer on Corey Hart.


      Mostly I think that Steamer has no idea how to value catcher defense, but I also question experts who think that Salty is a better than average defensive catcher.

      If you look into the catcher defensive stats on Steamer, you get things all over the map. Look at the "DEF" column on Fangraphs and you see that steamer projects Salty to provide more defensive value than he ever has. It projects a LOT of catchers of having extreme increases in DEF next year for no apparent reason. Either they are projecting them to catch a ton or play somewhere other than catcher or something, but it's not clear to me and it doesn't makes sense. It looks to me about 1/2 of the catcher projections make sense and the other 1/2 are way high, including Salty, McCann, AJ, and a ton of other old catchers who just aren't getting more adept defensively. I just don't recommend signing a catcher based on Steamer projections. I think they are nuts.

      I expect players to play more in lines with their career averages and their averages over the past few years. I think Doumit will hit more like .760 OPS, which is perfectly fine for a DH, probably above average.

      A lot of teams would be wise to take a flyer on Corey Hart. But only one team can, and none of them can play him at catcher, even occasionally, so the rest of the teams have to look for some offense where they can get it.
    1. twinsfan34's Avatar
      twinsfan34 -
      This is probably effort on the part of the Agent to get some more $$ for his client (Salty).

      He's a horrible catcher. Only one catcher in MLB had a worse Caught Stealing % than Salty. 79% of baserunners stole at will. Imagine what our low velocity pitching staff could do to that number.

      A 36 year old catcher with a .237 career average (.188 in the series) caught 4 of the 6 games in the World Series while Mr. Possible 3 years $30M rode the pine.

      If this is real, I feel like it's the spawn of nightmare and ground hog's day all over again.
    1. Trevor0333's Avatar
      Trevor0333 -
      Salty for 3/30 isn't terrible, he is one of the top 3rd catchers in the league. He's ok defensively and has some power. It would be nice to let Pinto start in AAA & come up in June. The pair would make a real nice platoon with Pinto giving him rest vs lefties. Gardy doesn't typically do platoons but C is a bit different with the needed off days. That said...

      This team & especially rotation are 2 years away from being contenders. That puts them in the optimal position to let Pinto work & grow with this pitching staff. If they bring in both Garza & Nolasco I can understand this a little more as they will have a pretty decent rotation giving them a chance to compete for the division.

      There has to be more to this interest. Such as Salty being a guy they believe will help transform the clubhouse they are finally realizing is just a little too soft.
    1. DJL44's Avatar
      DJL44 -
      An average defensive catcher is needed because Doumit and Pinto are both below average. Good catchers make pitchers better so you can think of some of the $$ as going to upgrade the pitching staff.
    1. oldguy10's Avatar
      oldguy10 -
      A. J. not mentioned in this thread - wouldn't he be a better and more logical choice? I sure think so, I wonder what the veteran pitchers would say if it came down to a choice between the two.
    1. twinsfan34's Avatar
      twinsfan34 -
      Salty is a career .246 hitter.

      That's .246/.310/.428. His BB% rate is 8.1%, his SO% rate is 28.4%

      For his career, he's allowed 77% of baserunners to steal. In 2011 he led MLB in passed balls with 26.

      He's horrible by offensive standards, he's worse by defensive standards.

      And someone would considering paying him actual money?

      Ryan Doumit's career offensive line: .268/.329/.438. Doumit is better across the board.

      Defensively you ask?

      They're comparable, 76% of baserunners are successful against Doumit (still better than Salty, albeit, barely).

      Doumit's career high in passed balls is 9*. Salty topps that every year.

      *only considers seasons above 100g caught.

      Doumit is better in every sense of catching and hitting.


      http://www.baseball-reference.com/pl...oumiry01.shtml

      http://www.baseball-reference.com/pl...altaja01.shtml

      Pinto will be better defensively and offensively than Salty.

      He might not outhit Doumit. Doumit is a career .268 with 2 .300+ seasons. He could hit that again.

      Josmil has been a better hitter and catcher at every level that Salty has played on.

      http://www.baseball-reference.com/mi...d=pinto-001jos

      I see no reason why we'd pay $10M annually for one of the games worst defensive catchers (he's worse than Doumit, Doumit is not top third of catchers) who has a career average under .250.
    1. twinsfan34's Avatar
      twinsfan34 -
      According to the stats....Salty is worse catcher or comparable to Doumit and Pinto. At every level.

      Is there some other metric we're looking at here to say he's even good defensively?

      Maybe passed balls? Caught stealing%? Fielding %?

      All horrible.
    1. twinsfan34's Avatar
      twinsfan34 -
      AJ would be about equal in terms of defense...He doesn't allow quite as many PB, his fielding % is near tops in the league annually at .995, and he throws out baserunners just a bit better than Doumit and Salty at 75% success rate against him.

      He's a better hitter, doesn't strike out. In fact he's a pretty tough out. Ever seen that guy foul over 10+ balls in an at bat before?

      Plus he's a Jack-a$$ to the other team.

      And cheaper.

      And he might actually want to sign with us.

      He's older is the only downfall.

      http://www.baseball-reference.com/pl...ierza.01.shtml
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