To be clear, the idea of Saltalamacchia coming to the White Sox did not manifest itself in the mind of an overzealous South Side fanatic. The genesis is courtesy of the Boston Herald's Scott Lauber, who cited an unnamed source when he tweeted that the former Boston Red Sox catcher "could draw interest from (the) White Sox" and several other teams.
So let's take a look at bringing Saltalamacchia into the fold from a variety of angles, including advanced splits courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.
To start, the 29-year-old is a more formidable offensive presence than either Tyler Flowers or Josh Phegley -- and not just in 2013. For his career, the switch-hitter has a .246/.310/.428 slash line, 8.5 oWAR, and a .202 IsoD (difference between batting average and slugging percentage).
As a unit, White Sox catchers had a collective .196/.238/.325 slash line and drove in a staggering 58 runs last season. Only the Toronto Blue Jays had a worse positional on-base percentage (.325), and the Miami Marlins were the only team with an OPS (.529) below the White Sox's, according to ESPN.com. And behind the plate, Salty "is underrated defensively, as he's generally solid at framing pitches," according to OvertheMonster.com's Marc Normandin.
Statistical upgrades aside, Saltalamacchia will demand a fairly reasonable salary, and the White Sox should be able to lock him up for the next several seasons. The most realistic figure is courtesy of the folks at MLBTradeRumors.com, which project a four-year, $36 million contract for the catcher. A contract worth $9 million per season is not out of pocket and would seem to fit within Hahn's payroll.
For all of his strengths, he does have a few weaknesses. First off, Saltalamacchia has a hard time keeping the bat on his shoulder. BrooksBaseball.net noted that in 2013, he had a "disastrously high likelihood to swing and miss" at fastballs and was not much better against breaking pitches. All told, Salty has a tough time making contact, which has led to a 29.4 percent career strikeout rate, per FanGraphs.com.
More concerning, though, is the fact that 2013 was the first year he had an OPS+ above 100. In fact, his final OPS+ (118) was more than 20 points higher than his previous career best. In other words, Saltalamacchia picked the perfect season to have a breakout year at the plate.
In addition to those shortcomings, he struggles against right-handed pitching to the tune of a lifetime .206/.267/.332 slash line and is batting .234 over the breadth of his career with runners in scoring position. All told, there are legitimate fears that he will not be able to repeat his most recent successes.
Concerns aside, Saltalamacchia's 162-game average of 21 HRs, 75 RBIs, 134 H, and a 95 OPS+ is far better than anything the White Sox have on the 40-man roster or in the minor leagues. It is not even close, actually.
Now the White Sox just inked Jose Dariel Abreu to a six-year, $68 million contract that will pay him just more than $8.6 million this season. That puts the team's payroll prior to arbitration at roughly $60 million, via Cots Contracts. Of course, throwing 10 years at a player like Cano is not a good baseball decision. Those contracts rarely -- if ever -- work out. That does not mean that the GM should ignore the hole behind the plate.
If Hahn has one more move left in the bank, it should be to sign the switch-hitting catcher from West Palm Beach.
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- Jarrod Saltalamacchia
- Chicago White Sox
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- Robinson Cano