Wednesday December 4th, 2013

(Jim Rogash/Getty Images) Saltalamacchia is a .246 career hitter with 78 home runs over seven seasons with the Braves, Rangers and Red Sox. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Fresh off a World Series win, Jarrod Saltalamacchia is going home. The free-agent catcher who grew up in South Florida -- he went to Royal Palm Beach High School and his family has a home in the area -- agreed to a three-year deal with the Marlins, who outbid the Twins and the Red Sox, Saltalamacchia’s former team. The deal is worth around $21 million and is pending a physical, according to numerous reports.

With pitching depth as the strength of the organization, freshly minted president of baseball operations Michael Hill has a clear mission this winter: to add impact bats. The Marlins were by far the worst offensive team in baseball, and Saltalamacchia, 28, is an upgrade for a lineup whose catchers hit a combined .194 with a .529 OPS last season and hit only nine home runs in 572 at-bats. The 28-year-old hit .273/.338/.466 with 14 homers in 121 games last season and is a .246 career hitter with 78 home runs over seven seasons with the Braves, Rangers and Red Sox. He’ll also provide experienced leadership behind the plate for a talented but young rotation that includes Jose Fernandez (21), Nate Eovaldi (23), Henderson Alvarez (23), and Jacob Turner (22).

It became clear that Salty’s tenure in Boston had ended when the Red Sox inked A.J. Pierzynski to a one-year deal earlier on Tuesday. With Brian McCann headed to the Bronx, Saltalamacchia was the best remaining catcher on the free-agent market. He joins McCann, Jose Molina (Rays), Carlos Ruiz (Phillies), Dioner Navarro (Blue Jays) and Brayan Pena (Reds) as the sixth free-agent catcher to sign a multi-year contract this offseason. But his struggles during the 2013 postseason (he started just two of the six World Series games) and questions about his durability seemed to hurt his value on the market. It’s probably something of a bittersweet moment for the catcher. Salty is going home —but he’s also going from a world championship team to one of the worst clubs in baseball.

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