Blue Jays enhance catching depth with Saltalamacchia

Photo: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sport

Photo: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sport

By: Andrew Hendriks

Canadian Baseball Network

In an effort to further enhance their depth, the Toronto Blue Jays formally came to terms with free agent catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia following a physical on Wednesday.
 
As first reported by Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, the deal is of the low-risk MiLB variety and is said to be worth $1.25MM if he makes the club out of spring training. It also includes an additional $250K in performance-based incentives.
 
Saltalamacchia, 31, is a veteran of 10 MLB seasons dating back to 2007 and joins Toronto having slashed .234/.309/.413 with 110 home runs across an even 880 big league contests.
 
Generally speaking, teams often gravitate towards glove-first players when it comes to sourcing out suitable backup catchers for their 25-man rosters. With that in mind, Wednesday’s deal differs from the norm as the Blue Jays newest option has witnessed his defensive metrics slip over the past two seasons, most notably in the form of a 22 percent caught stealing figure from 2016.
 
Still, considering the team's lack of experienced catching depth behind Russell Martin, there’s certainly value to be had in adding Saltalamacchia’s veteran presence.
 
Three years removed from establishing single-season highs in hits (116), doubles (40) and slugging percentage (.466), the switch-hitting product of Palm Beach, FL is expected to compete with longtime Jays farmhand A.J. Jimenez and fellow newcomer Juan Graterol for the opportunity to back up Martin when camp breaks this April.
 
Combined, the two in-house options ahead of Wednesday’s deal accounted for a grand total of nine games of major league service, all of which coming in 2016 and belonging solely to Graterol. 
 
Additionally, having posted a career OPS of .762 in 2299 plate appearances against right-handed hurlers, the veteran catcher is better utilized as a lefty at the dish and could provide Toronto’s particularly right-hand heavy lineup with a needed boost in that department next season.
 
After spending four seasons with the Boston Red Sox, one of which included a World Series title in 2013, Saltalamacchia is no stranger to the American League East and is now set to return to the division for the first time since signing a three-year, $21MM pact with Miami in 2014.
 
The former first-round draft pick spent all of 2016 with the Detroit Tigers while backing up James McCann, appearing at first base on 11 occasions and batting .171 with 12 home runs over 246 at-bats.

Andrew Hendriks

Born in southern Ontario during the late 1980's, Hendriks had a front row seat to watch the Blue Jays reach the pinnacle in '92/'93 as a child, an experience that only bolstered this Canadian's love for the "American Game." Having played since before his memory allows access too, his passion for Baseball grew over years of emulating his heroes on the local sandlots, memorizing the backs of chewing gum scented cards and travelling across North America to experience as many aspects of the game as possible. In 2009, Hendriks began volunteering at the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame as a Weekend Tour Guide. By 2010, he was hired on to help curate for the museum & Instruct the fundamentals of the game along side such legends as Tony Fernandez, Roberto Alomar and Jim Fanning during the Hall's annual Kids On Deck program. Following the 2011 season, Hendriks began blogging and co-hosting a weekly podcast for www.BackInBlue.ca, a Blue Jays themed website ran by fans, for fans. Looking to continue connecting with baseball fans across the country, Hendriks is excited to join such a strong team at the Canadian Baseball Network and looks forward to chipping in.