The Tigers have agreed to a minor league contract with veteran catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, MLBTR has confirmed. MLB.com’s Jason Beck first tweeted that Saltalamacchia showed up at the Tigers’ Spring Training facility. Saltalamacchia is represented by ACES.
This will mark the second go-around with the Tigers for Saltalamacchia, as the switch-hitting veteran also spent the 2016 campaign in Detroit. Salty got off to a fast start in ’16, carrying an OPS north of .900 through the month of April and managing to keep that mark at a solid .776 through the end of June. However, his offensive output cratered from that point forth, as he hit just .128/.237/.231 in his final 139 plate appearances of the season.
Last year, Saltalamacchia spent time in the Blue Jays organization, appearing in 10 big league games and 33 games in Triple-A while struggling mightily at each level (.515 OPS in Triple-A). Those struggles continued into a stint in the Mexican Winter League. He’d been working out at the free-agent Spring Training camp at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., prior to landing back with the Tigers.
Detroit has plenty of catching depth on hand at present, with James McCann slated to start and John Hicks in line to be his primary backup. Derek Norris has also been competing for that job on a non-roster deal in Spring Training and has performed quite well at the plate in limited action thus far. Fellow veteran Brayan Pena is also in Tigers camp, giving them yet another option (and another former Tiger) who could serve as depth in Triple-A.
It’s possible that one or both of Norris or Pena will ultimately land with another organization if he cannot crack the big league roster out of camp. In that instance, Saltalamacchia could occupy a spot in Triple-A Toledo to open the season. He could also simply use this opportunity with the Tigers as a means of giving other clubs a look at him for the next few weeks, at which point he, too, could land elsewhere.
Rough as the 2016-17 seasons were for Saltalamacchia, the 32-year-old is not that far removed from a relatively productive five-year run during which he slashed .237/.309/.434 with 75 homers in 1966 plate appearances. While those numbers are hardly eye-catching, they did translate to a 101 OPS+, or roughly average production when factoring in league and home park. Relative to other catchers, in particular, Saltalamacchia was a more than viable offensive option during that stretch.