As the Detroit Tigers officially announce that Mike Pelfrey has passed his physical, Al Avila simultaneously announced that the team has also signed catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. This move was a surprising one, especially considering that the Tigers have both James McCann and Bryan Holaday available for 2016. Odds are that Salty will back up McCann due to the fact that he can hit from both sides of the plate.
This unexpected move shows that Al Avila is determined to build a team that can contend for a playoff berth in 2016. Since Saltalamacchia was still owed money from his contract with the Miami Marlins, Avila was able to sign him near the league minimum salary of $500,000.
Jun 21, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Arizona Diamondbacks catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia (8) at bat in the third inning against the San Diego Padres at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
Saltalamacchia only played in 79 games with Miami and the Arizona D-backs. He had a disappointing batting average of .225 in those 79 games. He had 9 home runs and 24 RBIs. He will turn 31 years old during the 2016 season, but at 6’4 he can still be a wall behind the plate and against right-handed pitching.
The Tigers have a lights-out catcher with James McCann, who committed zero errors at his position in 2015. The only problem with McCann is that he has challenges hitting right-handed pitching. Saltalamacchia struggles against left-handed pitchers, but he has pop in his bat against righties. With a solid left-handed hitter, McCann could play fewer innings, saving his strength for the entire season rather than tire him out with too many innings every week.
Even though Salty had his weakest numbers in 2015, they were still better than those of Alex Avila. The Tigers’ former catcher had an abysmal .191 batting average in his 219 plate appearances. Avila signed a one-year contract with the Chicago White Sox, who let Tyler Flowers go and then signed Dioner Navarro.
Salty does not have the same presence behind the plate as McCann does. He has occasionally played first base and has filled the designated hitter role, too. The Tigers have occasionally used Bryan Holaday behind the dish, but they have not been thrilled with his performance at the plate. He will have to work hard to prove that he is a better backup to McCann than Salty is, especially since Holaday bats right, just like McCann. It is common knowledge that the Tigers are low on left-handed hitters, so this affordable veteran signing could do some good for the lineup.