The Boston Red Sox signed free agent catcher A.J. Pierzynski to a one-year contract earlier this morning, and that has some major implications for multiple parties. For the Red Sox, it accomplishes their goal of getting a short-term contract to hold the fort while their young catching prospects develop into an eventual 2015 starting role. For them, it is a success to get the aging but still surprisingly effective Pierzynski.
But this has implications further down south as well. The Red Sox were one of the supposed front-runners in the race for free agent catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, The other two teams, according to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, were the Miami Marlins and Minnesota Twins. Now the Red Sox have jumped out of the race, having found what they want in a catcher. Does that leave Miami and Minnesota as the two primary suitors?
The Marlins have made a contract offer to Saltalamacchia, though the numbers have not been disclosed. Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors previously projected a four-year, $36 million contract for Saltalamacchia, and the Marlins would have room in their current budget to allow for that. The team opened up around $2 million in likely salary space last night by not tendering contracts to Chris Coghlan and Ryan Webb.
The Twins remain interested in Saltalamacchia in this dwindling catcher's market because they recently moved Joe Mauer over to first base full time. Other teams that could be interested in a catcher are the Colorado Rockies, who are upset with Wilin Rosario's defensive play, the Chicago White Sox, who got almost as little production from the position as Miami did, and the Texas Rangers, who are currently planning on running back Geovany Soto for their backstop.
The key to signing Saltalamacchia may be the four-year offer. He stated a preference to stay in Boston, but he rejected a two-year offer from the Red Sox in favor of a longer contract. The team that is willing to go the longest may win out with him, and Miami may ironically be the favorite there. The Fish have long established their willingness and capability to trade backloaded, long-term deals away. They may feel confident in giving Saltalamacchia a four-year contract knowing that, if he proves less than worthy, they might still get out from under the commitment.
Saltalamacchia is another Red Sox player who is a south Florida native, having gone to Royal Palm Beach High School in Palm Beach County, so there is appeal there. The Marlins have a number of potential edges that could make them the favorite for Saltalamacchia's services in 2014 and beyond. With one team down, the Fish may only have one more competitor to go.