Double A catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia is a rare player: a bona fide top prospect at the position. The Braves might be able to maximize his value not by switching Salty or Brian McCann to first base, but by trading the minor leaguer. Saltalamacchia is off to a hot start after a lost ’06, and one team especially interested in acquiring a young catcher is the Tigers.
As a 22 year-old in Double A, Salty is at the perfect stage in his career as the Tigers would be able to exercise Pudge’s 2008 option and have Saltalamacchia ready to take over in 2009. So what do the Braves need?
So far Atlanta is getting on base well and hitting for power, and whatever regression Kelly Johnson experiences will be matched by Andruw Jones hitting his stride. With a healthy Chipper Jones and an improved Jeff Francoeur, this team can hit.
John Schuerholz already went all-in to improve the bullpen, leaving starting pitching as the most glaring weakness. It’s looking good on the front end – two possible aces plus a solid third in Chuck James. Still, giving 40% of the starts to Kyle Davies/Mark Redman/Lance Cormier is undesirable.
David O’Brien says there are no good pitchers on the trade market for Atlanta, but a month or two from now some opportunities will probably appear. One nice fit could be Carlos Zambrano; Michael Barrett is a free agent after this season. I’ll discuss Rich Harden in another post, but the A’s have Kurt Suzuki waiting in the wings.
Back to the Tigers – I doubt Justin Verlander or Jeremy Bonderman can be had. Could Nate Robertson plus a good prospect be enough to snag Salty? The 29 year-old southpaw doesn’t reach free agency until after 2009, and he’s been a healthy 32 start guy. Bring him over to the National League, and we could see the Ted Lilly/Bronson Arroyo/Kyle Lohse effect.
The White Sox have A.J. Pierzynski signed through 2008, which gels nicely with Saltalamacchia’s ETA. If Mark Buehrle has another solid month or two, the Braves might covet the lefty and his playoff experience. Plus, an acquisition and possible extension could keep Buehrle away from the NL rival Cardinals. Moving Salty to the Marlins for Dontrelle Willis could work as well.
Really, with a commodity like Saltalamacchia, one could devise many different scenarios where he’s swapped for a frontline starter.