When the Detroit Tigers did not re-sign long-time catcher (and GM’s son) Alex Avila, fans expected that the 2016 catching duo would consist of James McCann and Bryan Holaday. Fans were rather surprised when the Tigers announced they had signed veteran catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia to a one-year contract.
The biggest surprise came from the fact that Salty was released from his 2015 and 2016 contracts with the Miami Marlins who had signed him for over $14 million for those two years. Because money in baseball is guaranteed, the Tigers are only paying him the league minimum for the single year contract.
Most Tigers fans will know Salty from his years with the Boston Red Sox where he was the regular catcher. He held the position in Boston for four years where he maintained a slash line of .243/.307/.455. He hit 55 home runs in those four years and knocked in 181 RBIs. He did play in the post-season games in 2013, but he did not provide much in the way of offense, striking out four times in the World Series and earning two bases-on-balls.
When he played in the ALCS against the Tigers, he hit the walk-off single that won the second game. John Farrell benched him for most of the World Series because of his defensive errors.
In 2014, he became a free agent and was snapped up by the Miami Marlins for three years and $21 million. They were not impressed with him and by April 27, 2015, he was designated for assignment. The Arizona Diamondbacks grabbed him and after he spent some time in minor leagues, he played for the team replacing the injured Tuffy Gosewisch.
Saltalamacchia’s issues with power and defense started in Miami when he suffered from a concussion in May of 2014. Prior to the concussion, he hit nine home runs. After, he only hit two. In 2015, he played in nine games and then was DFA’d. In Arizona, he hit eight home runs and hit a slash line of .251/.332/.474 in 194 plate appearances.
Now in Spring Training, Salty is battling for the spot as the backup to McCann. In the right-handed dominant lineup, Saltalamacchia’s left-handed bat could be useful to the Tigers in special circumstances. Salty can also play first base, which can come in handy when Miguel Cabrera needs to take a break and serve as the DH instead.
The switch-hitting catcher will be 31 years old in May. He stands 6’4 and weighs 235. In comparison, McCann stands 6’2 and weighs 210. Bryan Holaday is 6’0, 205. Salty was drafted by the Atlanta Braves in the first round of 2003. He only played a partial season with the Braves in 2007 before being traded to the Texas Rangers.
Off the field, Saltalamacchia is the father of four with the newest child being born in April of 2015. Interestingly, he was DFA’d by the Marlins on his way to work once his paternity leave had ended. He is from West Palm Beach, Florida where he has been married to his wife Ashley since 2005. They have four children who will hopefully be seen running around Comerica Park with the other players’ children.