Monday, November 25, 2013
Market playing right into Salty's hands
By Gordon Edes
“I can’t wait until tomorrow ... 'cause I get better-looking every day.’’
Recognize those words?
As the top remaining catcher on the free-agent market, Jarrod Saltalamacchia is in the driver's seat.
That was the title of a long-ago book about Joe Namath written with the late, great Dick Schaap.
According all due respect to the Jets’ Hall of Fame quarterback, you have to wonder if that’s how free-agent catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia is feeling these days.
With every passing hour, it seems, the number of available catchers on the market is shrinking, and there still are plenty of teams that could use a catcher. Brian McCann, gone (Yankees). Carlos Ruiz, gone (Phillies). Jose Molina, gone (Rays). Brayan Pena, gone (Reds). Geovanny Soto, gone (Rangers).
And there sits Saltalamacchia, the switch-hitting catcher still the subject of considerable interest for a half-dozen teams, including the Red Sox, according to a baseball source, and looking better by the day.
And now that the Yankees have rewarded McCann with a five-year, $85 million deal, a package the Red Sox chose not to compete against, it’s hard to imagine Saltalamacchia failing to improve on the initial two-year offer the Red Sox made to him in their initial bid to keep him in Boston. The Red Sox are just one of four or five teams that still have interest in Saltalamacchia, according to a baseball source. The suspects on that list include the Angels, Twins, Rockies, Blue Jays, White Sox and Rangers.
No decision is imminent, the source said Sunday, but Saltalamacchia can make a compelling case that he represents the best of the rest, which has the dual effect of making his return to Boston more desirable and problematic at the same time.
Desirable because the Sox know what they have in Saltalamacchia -- a catcher who has proven he can play in Boston, who can be a productive bat (at least from the left side) and better than adequate defensively.
Problematic because Saltalamacchia can probably parlay those assets into a three-year deal, with a four-year deal not out of the question, given his age (28).
The best available option if the Sox don’t accede to Saltalamacchia’s wishes? This is your life, A.J. Pierzynski. The well-traveled Pierzynski turns 36 on Dec. 30, but he has played in at least 125 games in each season since 2002, has hit a total of 44 home runs in the past two seasons (27 with the White Sox in 2012, 17 with the Rangers last season), and threw out 33 percent of the runners who attempted to steal on him in Texas, his highest percentage in more than a decade.
Pierzynski becomes even more attractive to the Sox when they factor in that he probably can be had for short years, perhaps a one-year deal, two at the most. Some have pointed to Pierzynski's occasionally disagreeable personality as a reason to shy away, but considering Texas writers voted him their “Good Guy” award this year, maybe he’s mellowing -- or his reputation is undeserved. Either way, the Sox would appear to have enough strong personalities around to nudge Pierzynski into buying into the Boston Way.
The pickings really become slim after Pierzynski. Dioner Navarro had a nice bounce-back season with the Cubs last year, but he’s considered a liability defensively and not very durable to boot. Beyond Navarro, the Sox may have to tap into a thin trade market.
All the better for Saltalamacchia, of course. Can you blame him if he checks out the nearest mirror?
-- Yes, the Red Sox have asked the Dodgers about outfielder Matt Kemp, but for now that's still in the due diligence category.