Jarrod Saltalamacchia is taking a dramatic plunge, going from the World Series champion Boston Red Sox to the last-place Marlins.
But he’ll be receiving a thick wad of cash to soften the landing.
The 28-year-old catcher and native of nearby Royal Palm Beach agreed Tuesday to a three-year deal with the Marlins that will pay him $21 million, according to sources with knowledge of the contract. The deal is pending a physical.
According to sources, the contract calls for Saltalamacchia to receive $6 million in the first year, $7 million in the second, and $8 million in the third and final year of the deal. Per team policy, the contract does not give Saltalamacchia “no trade” protection.
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The Marlins have spent the offseason in search of a catcher, and one who can supply offense to an anemic lineup, in particular. Saltalamacchia hit .273 with 14 home runs in 121 games (119 of them behind the plate) last season for Boston.
Because the deal is not yet official, the Marlins are not commenting.
But the team made it known catching was a critical need. The team’s catchers ranked last in the majors in several major hitting categories, whereas the Red Sox, with Saltalamacchia handing the bulk of the catching chores, were near the top of the charts.
Saltalamacchia, a free agent, received interest from several teams, including the Red Sox and Minnesota Twins. But both bowed out of the bidding, leaving the Marlins as the last team standing.
Saltalamacchia isn’t the first catcher to receive a three-year deal from Miami.
The Marlins gave John Buck a three-year, $18 million deal a few years ago, only to see it backfire when he failed to produce at the plate. Buck was dealt to Toronto last year as part of the blockbuster deal with the Blue Jays.
Even though the Marlins have finished last each of the past three seasons, Saltalamacchia had no qualms playing in Miami, which is close to home for him.
The Marlins are desperate for offensive help of any kind (they ranked last in the majors in runs scored last season by a wide margin), and are banking on Saltalamacchia to make a positive impact at the plate. He hit 25 home runs for the Red Sox in 2012.
But he also strikes out often and has thrown out only 23 percent of runners who have tried to steal on him over the course of his career, which included earlier stops in Atlanta and Texas.
Still, the Marlins were apparently willing to accept those deficiencies in exchange for his bat. Their incumbent catcher, Jeff Mathis, is generally regarded as a competent backup with solid defensive skills but woeful hitting skills. Mathis will now take a backseat to Saltalamacchia, who played in 121 games each of the past two seasons with Boston.
Rob Brantly, who was the Marlins’ Opening Day catcher last year, will likely now be relegated to Triple A New Orleans, where he can gain more seasoning.
Four years after being named the National League’s Rookie of the Year, Chris Coghlan was given his walking papers Monday when the Marlins did not offer him a contract for 2014. Reliever Ryan Webb also was non-tendered as the Marlins continued to fine-tune their roster.
Coghlan, 28, was never able to mirror the success he enjoyed in 2009, when he established career highs as a rookie with a .321 average, nine home runs and 47 RBI. His career took a downward turn after he suffered a freak knee injury in 2010 during a postgame celebration in which he planted a shaving cream pie in the face of teammate Wes Helms. He had dealt with knee and back injuries since then.
Both Coghlan and Webb can now become free agents and play for the team of their choice.
• The Marlins tendered contracts to their other five players eligible for salary arbitration: Giancarlo Stanton, Steve Cishek, Logan Morrison, Mike Dunn and Justin Ruggiano.