4:18pm: The Jays and Saltalamacchia are in agreement on a minor league contract, pending a physical, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter link). He’d earn a $1.25MM base salary upon making the club and could also earn up to $250K via incentives.
4:08pm: The Blue Jays and free-agent catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia are closing in on an agreement, reports Shi Davidi of Sportsnet. If completed, Saltalamacchia would presumably become the favorite to serve as a backup to starting catcher Russell Martin. The 31-year-old Saltalamacchia is represented by ACES. ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reported yesterday that Toronto had expressed interest in the veteran switch-hitter.
Saltalamacchia spent the 2016 season with the Tigers (although it was technically the final season of a three-year, $21MM deal he’d signed with the Marlins prior to the 2014 campaign). Though he showed some pop early in the season (.874 OPS, seven homers through his first 86 plate appearances), Saltalamacchia struggled to a .171/.281/.346 batting line in 292 PAs when over the course of the season as a whole. He is, however, a year removed from a .251/.332/.474 showing in nearly 200 PAs with the D-backs, and his .237/.309/.434 batting line from 2011-15 was solid, if unspectacular.
As Davidi points out, Saltalamacchia is a known commodity to Blue Jays vice president of baseball operations Ben Cherington, who served as the general manager in Boston for much of Saltalamacchia’s tenure with the team.
Saltalamacchia isn’t regarded as a strong defensive option, as he’s stopped a below-average 22 percent of stolen-base attempts against him in his career and also seen his pitch-framing numbers deteriorate over the years. Salatlamacchia is a switch-hitter, though, so he can help to balance out a lineup that is heavily right-handed if he ultimately does make the team.
Among internal candidates, recent waiver claim Juan Graterol and longtime Jays prospect A.J. Jimenez represent the most significant competition that will face Saltalamacchia in Spring Training. Graterol has a limited offensive track record but is more well-regarded from a defensive standpoint. Jimenez, meanwhile, was once regarded as one of the Jays’ best prospects but has seen his stock slide in recent years. He’ll turn 27 early in the 2017 season and is coming off a season in which he batted .241/.290/.377 in Triple-A.