With Brian McCann off market, what now for Jarrod Saltalamacchia?

November 24, 2013 - 2:17 am
Brian McCann is off the market with his reported five-year, $85 million agreement with the Yankees (a pact that contains a vesting option for a sixth year that can push the value of the deal up to $100 million) and Carlos Ruiz signed his three-year deal to return to the Phillies last week (which contained an option for a fourth year), and so Jarrod Saltalamacchia stands alone as the top catcher on the free-agent market (and one who doesn't require a team to sacrifice a draft pick to boot), and there isn't really a close second. So where does that leave the 28-year-old free agent who hit .273 with a .338 OBP, .466 slugging mark, 14 homers and 40 doubles? The Rangers and Red Sox both showed considerable interest in McCann, and both have what are typically characterized as strong backups (David Ross for the Red Sox, Geovany Soto for the Rangers) but still not necessarily a frontline option behind the plate. Both teams represent potential landing spots for Saltalamacchia. However, according to multiple industry sources, the Red Sox have shown no willingness to budge off of a two-year offer, and with Saltalamacchia clearly seeking at least three years (in a market where a player who is six years older in Ruiz received three years, and a player with a recent injury history in McCann got five), it seems likely that he'll have to go elsewhere to get it. The Sox' preference for a two-year deal -- at a time when a pair of promising catchers are advancing in the system, as Christian Vazquez will be in Triple-A and Blake Swihart will be in Double-A -- served as a motivator for the team's pursuit of Ruiz, to whom the team offered a deal with a higher average annual value than the $8.67 million that Ruiz eventually secured, but with a three-year term, from the Phillies. They didn't move off that stance with Ruiz, and thus far this offseason, the team has remained similarly adamant in talks with Saltalamacchia. The Blue Jays, like the Sox, pursued Ruiz, and according to an industry source, they are in play for Saltalamacchia, who has considerable familiarity with opponents in the American League East. Both the Cubs and White Sox are searching for catching help, though according to another industry source, the Cubs seem more interested in the backup market given that they have Welington Castillo (who hit .274/.349/.397 in 113 games last year) as a primary option. The Rockies became a surprise entrant in the McCann sweepstakes, but that interest in a catcher (to permit Wilin Rosario to move off of catching) has yet to translate to substantive talks with Saltalamacchia. With McCann now having been taken out of play, the market for Saltalamacchia now can likely take greater definition. Where that takes him remains to be seen.