The Tigers, after losing Alex Avila to the White Sox, were in the market for some catching insurance. The club is committed to James McCann but there’s a whole other roster spot reserved for a catcher and the only internal option is a very replacement level Bryan Holaday. Enter Jarrod Saltalamacchia.
On Sunday, the Tigers signed him to a one-year deal for the league minimum (~$550K) and he will compete for a spot in Spring Training. Salty is still drawing a paycheck from the Marlins, who cut him last April, so the Tigers get to have him for basically no money. And anything that doesn’t take money away from another place is worth trying. No need to discuss the merits of the deal because there’s no downside. Salty doesn’t block a surprise prospect, he doesn’t steal time from McCann if McCann is playing well, and he doesn’t even stand in the way if the Tigers stumbled their way into a trade for a better player.
If you’re looking for a rundown of the newest Tiger, it’s pretty simple. Salty is a switch-hitting catcher who was a highly touted young prospect. Nine MLB seasons later, he’s had one good season (2013). He’s pretty regularly been in the 95-100 wRC+ range, which is above average for a catcher, but he’s somewhere between not very good and pretty darn bad behind the plate. He’s a poor framer, an average blocker at best, and doesn’t command the running game. He’s a bat first guy without much bat.
He had a good 46 PA against lefties in 2015, but has been absolutely awful from the right side of the plate in his previous work. Against righties, however, he’s a decent enough hitter who can provide some power (.195 career ISO). He’s a three true outcomes type who is only useful as a bat-only catcher versus RHP, but while that’s not an exciting player, it’s a player that’s cool if he’s free.
If things go well, he can provide some power off the bench and on days when McCann needs a break. He could provide half a win and be an improvement over Holaday and there is some upside if he runs into enough fastballs from righties. This isn’t a major move, and anything above replacement level is a net positive for the club. If things go poorly, the Tigers release him at virtually no cost.
We’re also probably in for some good “salt” related puns, so that makes the move worth it no matter way.