The Blue Jays have expressed interest in veteran catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, reports ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick (via Twitter). Toronto has been known to be looking for a backup to Russell Martin for quite some time, and Saltalamacchia could certainly fit that bill. The 31-year-old switch-hitter recently changed agents and is now a client of ACES after his former agent, Jim Munsey, decided to leave the business.
Saltalamacchia spent the 2016 season with the Tigers and got off to a hot start, carrying an .874 OPS into mid-May and clubbing seven home runs in that time. However, his bat went ice-cold for the remainder of the season as he OPSed just .519 in his final 200 plate appearances and finished the year with an unsightly .171/.284/.346 batting line in 292 PAs.
While those numbers aren’t appealing, Saltalamacchia is just a year removed from a strong performance with the D-backs, during which he batted .251/.332/.474 and hit eight home runs in 194 plate appearances while serving largely in a reserve capacity. From 2011-15, he batted a collective .237/.309/.434, which comes out to a roughly league-average OPS+ (101).
One of the questions that Toronto will have to answer is whether Saltalamacchia is a strong enough defensive option behind the dish to fill their vacancy. Throwing out runners, for instance, has been a struggle for much of Salty’s career, as he’s prevented just 22 percent of stolen-base attempts against him. He also went from solid framing marks from 2010-12 to below-average marks in recent seasons (including a particularly poor 2014 campaign). He’s had issues with passed balls and wild pitches in the past as well, most notably in 2011, though it should be noted that he caught nearly all of knuckleballer Tim Wakefield’s innings that season.
The Jays have been linked to names like Bobby Wilson, Chris Gimenez and Chris Iannetta since the Winter Meetings as they’ve searched for a backup, but each of those options has signed elsewhere (Wilson with the Dodgers, Gimenez with the Twins, Iannetta with the D-backs). Kurt Suzuki, too, has recently come off the board by signing a one-year deal with the Braves. A.J. Jimenez is the top internal option, but he’s coming off a poor 2016 season in Triple-A. Prospect Reese McGuire could eventually be an option in Toronto, but the 21-year-old didn’t exactly thrive in Double-A last season and has yet to even play a game in Triple-A.