Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette stated multiple times before the general managers meetings that he wanted to improve the club’s catching depth. It wasn’t the No. 1 priority, but he targeted it.
The list of free agents is underwhelming beyond Matt Wieters, but the Orioles have reached out to Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s agent, according to multiple reports.
The need increases dramatically if Wieters signs with another club. He has until 5 p.m. Friday to accept or decline the $15.8 million qualifying offer.
Saltalamacchia, 30, would provide a veteran presence along with Caleb Joseph and Steve Clevenger. And he’s a former first-round pick of the Braves in 2003, which always brings a certain appeal to Duquette.
News of the Orioles’ interest in Saltalamacchia - and the level is unknown because not everyone in the organization is a fan - was met with the expected lack of enthusiasm on Twitter. For example:
“Why? We already have two catchers better than him”
“That doesn’t make sense. What kind of a deal will Salty get with 4 teams involved? They must not think much of Clevenger.”
“Why? Unless he is going to sign for 2-4 mil per. Have other bigger pressing needs”
“Big splash right there! I’m comfortable with Caleb catching 130 games this year”
“Don’t get the interest. What do they see in him over Caleb?”
“This team has more important needs than acquiring a 3rd catcher imo.”
“Salty is terrible and coming off 2 bad years. He’s not the guy they need”
“If they sign him he’s probably the starter and I don’t like that.”
See what I mean?
The Orioles signed another ex-Red Sox catcher, Ryan Lavarnway, last winter and included him on the opening day roster. He went 3-for-28 in 10 games and was designated for assignment on May 26.
The comparisons are inevitable.
I’ve written that the Orioles may carry three catchers next season, including Clevenger, who plays other positions and can serve as a left-handed designated hitter. They think there’s room for Clevenger, who’s out of options, and two other backstops.
Clevenger certainly deserves to stay on the roster. He can swing the bat and he’s done everything the Orioles asked to improve defensively.
Joseph has a minor league option, but he still projects as the starter. At least he offers some roster flexibility, a rare commodity this year.
Saltalamacchia is a switch-hitter with a career .240/.311/.419 slash line in nine seasons. He’s below-average behind the plate, but he did hit 25 home runs with the Red Sox in 2012 and the team signing him would pay only the league minimum. The Marlins are on the hook, so to speak, for the rest of the $8 million he’s owed next season.
It would simply be a depth signing. If not him, someone else. It won’t be presented as a major acquisition. It’s not evidence that Duquette is ignoring more important needs on the roster.
Duquette has been meeting with various executives and agents. He’s plotting ways to acquire two outfielders, along with a starting pitcher. He’s trying to stay in the running for a few of his own free agents, including Chris Davis and Darren O’Day. He isn’t putting 100 percent of his energy and focus into another backup catcher.
A.J. Pierzynski reportedly is off the market after re-signing with the Braves. The Orioles had no interest in him. The Mariners are closing in on a deal with Chris Iannetta, according to The Tacoma News Tribune.
Catchers are moving fast, which they usually aren’t able to do.
* The Silver Slugger Awards will be announced tonight on MLB Network. They’re handed out annually to the best offensive player at each position in both the American League and National League as determined in voting by managers and coaches.
Davis won it in 2013 after batting .286/.370/.634 and leading the majors with 53 home runs and 138 RBIs. He batted .262/.361/.562 this season with 31 doubles, 47 home runs, 117 RBIs, 84 walks and 208 strikeouts in 160 games. His 117 RBIs ranked third in the majors and his .562 slugging percentage ranked seventh.
1983: Eddie Murray (1B) and Cal Ripken Jr. (SS)
1984: Eddie Murray (1B) and Cal Ripken Jr. (SS)
1985: Cal Ripken Jr. (SS)
1986: Cal Ripken Jr. (SS)
1989: Cal Ripken Jr. (SS) and Mickey Tettleton (C)
1991: Cal Ripken Jr. (SS)
1993: Cal Ripken Jr. (SS)
1994: Cal Ripken Jr. (SS)
1996: Roberto Alomar (2B)
1998: Rafael Palmeiro (1B)
2004: Miguel Tejada (SS) and Melvin Mora (3B)
2005: Miguel Tejada (SS)
2008: Aubrey Huff (DH)
2013: Chris Davis (1B), Adam Jones (OF), J.J. Hardy (SS)