In a rather surprising move, the Marlins announced that they have designated catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia for assignment.
Saltalamacchia, 29, is less than a month into the second year of a three-year, $21MM pact with the Marlins. He’s owed $6.16MM through season’s end and still has an $8MM salary remaining in 2016, the final year of his contract. With $14.16MM left on his deal, Saltalamacchia is all but certain to clear waivers if that’s where he’s headed, but it remains possible that the Marlins could move him to another club if they absorb a significant portion of his remaining salary.
Though the remaining salary on his contract and the early juncture of the season make this move unexpected, Saltalamacchia’s bat hasn’t justified the investment which the Marlins made in the 2013-14 offseason. In a combined 468 plate appearances over the past two years, Saltalamacchia has batted just .209/.310/.351 with a dozen homers. Top catching prospect J.T. Realmuto was promoted earlier this month and will be relied upon as the everyday catcher going forward, it would seem.
It’s possible that the Marlins are far enough along in trade discussions that they were comfortable designating Saltalamacchia in order to clear a 40-man spot now. (The Orioles recently did this with Ryan Webb, for example.) It seems odd that they wouldn’t be able to find a taker for Saltalamacchia at $1-2MM per season to spare them some of the cost, but as Jon Heyman of CBS Sports notes, the team did try to trade Saltalamacchia all winter without any success (Twitter link).