Saltalamacchia is putting together his usual year so far this season. Through 20 games, he’s hitting .232/.321/.425 with three home runs, eight RBI and 10 runs. It should come as no surprise that he hasn’t been good defensively either.
Since getting traded to Boston back in 2010, Saltalamacchia hasn’t made a big impact.
Now that Boston has Ryan Lavarnway waiting in the wings, Davis Ross as a reliable backup and Mike Napoli as an emergency option, the need to keep Saltalamacchia is fairly minimal. And as ESPN’s Buster Olney recently said on WEEI, the Red Sox may look into dealing him.
“With Saltalamacchia, I’ve heard this from executives of other teams: They say they think that the Red Sox will be looking for an upgrade at that position, possibly even before the trade deadline at some point. They feel like, given the money they’re paying him, he’s got to perform better than how he’s been performing at the beginning of this year.”
Once the offseason was in full swing, many speculated whether Boston would deal either Saltalamacchia or Lavarnway, but despite inquires, they entered spring training with a trio of catchers and Napoli. Boston would end up sending Lavarnway to Triple-A to start the season.
Now, Boston is in a position where the lineup could be just as productive without Saltalamacchia behind the plate on a frequent basis. The problem, as Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald noted in March, is that there market isn’t very good, especially taking into consideration that he’ll also be a free agent after this season.
But if the Red Sox truly want to replace Saltalamacchia, here are a few teams they could convince to take him for the rest of the year.
Over the offseason, the Chicago White Sox decided that A.J. Pierzynski’s career with the club was finished and didn’t re-sign him. Instead, the team put full faith into young catcher Tyler Flowers, who had played around 100 games since 2009.
But Flowers, who never hit very well in the past, has gotten off to a very slow start to the season. Through 21 games, he’s hitting .182/.250/.364 with three home runs and seven RBI. He and Hector Gimenez have given Chicago the 25th most production from behind the plate this season in terms of WAR, according to FanGraphs.
If the White Sox are interested in turning their season around before it’s too late, they need to make a change at catcher. Flowers just isn’t capable of producing like Chicago needs him to. While Saltalamacchia isn’t the best solution, he would provide at least a little more consistency as well as veteran leadership.
Lauber noted back in November that after Boston signed Ross, Chicago was one of the teams that could trade pitching in order to acquire a catcher. Early last season, Scott Merkin of MLB.com suggested that Chicago could deal Matt Thornton, considering he’s owed $5.5 million in 2013.
Boston would have no problem picking up his contract the rest of the season should it be interested. It also wouldn’t be a bad idea considering that Andrew Miller is the only healthy left-hander in Boston’s bullpen since Craig Breslow and Franklin Morales are both recovering from injuries and aren’t guaranteed to succeed once returning.
Alex Avila has had his fair share of ups and downs over the course of his career with the Detroit Tigers. Nearly every aspect of his game has fluctuated over the last three years and he hasn’t gotten off to the best of starts in 2013. Through 19 games, he’s hitting .183/.247/.310 with three home runs and three RBI.
Avila has hit as well as .295/.389/.506 with 19 home runs and 82 RBI in the past, but it appears that 2011 was more of a fluke than the beginning of a trend. He was considerably worse last season and he’s well on his way to posting more underwhelming numbers this year.
Brayan Pena has shared the catching duties with Avila this year for Detroit, but neither has been very productive. Compared to the rest of the league, the Tigers have the worst WAR among catchers, according to FanGraphs. Detroit has one of the best overall teams in baseball, but its catching core is holding the club back.
The Tigers still have Avila under contract until 2016 at the earliest, but that shouldn’t deter them from trying to improve for the near future. There shouldn’t be any reason why the Tigers couldn’t trade for Saltalamacchia, use Avila has the backup and send Pena down to Triple-A. Saltalamacchia and Avila could split time, 60-40.
At the end of the season, Detroit would determine whether it was in the team’s best interest to re-sign Saltalamacchia for a year or two, or try again with Avila. Boston most likely wouldn’t receive much in return outside of a minor leaguer or two.
The Philadelphia Phillies haven’t gotten much production from their catchers this season, but that could primarily be due to the absence of Carlos Ruiz, who was suspended for the first 25 games of the season.
Regardless, the Phillies are 28th in baseball in terms of WAR from their catchers, according to FanGraphs. Erik Kratz has been the starter for majority of the season thus far, but is hitting .191/.222/.309 with a pair of home runs and seven RBI. Humberto Quintero has also played, but hasn't done much with the bat either.
Now, Ruiz has been a very good catcher for the Phillies over the course of his entire career. Since 2006, Ruiz has hit .274/.362/.416 with 52 home runs and 299 RBI in 736 games. But he’s also going to be a free agent after the 2013 season and the Phillies don’t have someone for the future just yet.
Trading for Saltalamacchia would provide Philadelphia with a left-handed power option from behind the plate that could platoon with Ruiz. Depending on which backstop played better throughout the rest of the year, the Phillies could then determine who their starting catcher should be in 2014.
This destination for Saltalamacchia is easily the least likely of the three, but it’s certainly something to consider. Boston could get some mid-level prospects in return for their starting catcher, and the Phillies would get an additional bat that could help them get into the postseason