When the Marlins invested more than $32 million on catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, first baseman Garrett Jones and second baseman Rafael Furcal, the idea wasn’t solely for them to provide veteran leadership.
It was also to get some production in important games and crucial situations.
Furcal, shelved for all but nine games, has been a complete waste of $3.5 million. Saltalamacchia, making $21 million over three years, and Jones, making $7.75 over two years, have provided help at times.
But a game like Friday’s 5-2 loss to the Braves serves as an example of how Saltalamacchia and Jones have also let the Marlins down, too.
Saltalamacchia, averaging a strikeout once every three at-bats (the eighth-highest percentage in baseball this season), whiffed three times Friday, including with a runner on second in the sixth inning when the Marlins had a chance to expand a slim 1-0 lead.
Jones, meanwhile, made his 13th error of the season. He also struck out with the bases loaded and one out in the first inning, and had what should have been a double-play ball go right through his glove in the seventh inning in a 2-2 game. The Braves took advantage and scored three runs after Jones’ miscue to pull away.
“I know that probably nobody feels worse for not making that play than him,” manager Mike Redmond said of Jones. “He’s a competitor, he’s a great teammate. He’s a big part of this team. Sometimes that happens. You go through some ups and downs, both offensively and defensively. That’s why you rely on your teammates to pick you up.”
The problem is Jones and Saltalamacchia haven’t been carrying their weight enough.
Jones’ 13 errors are four more than the next-worst first baseman in baseball (the Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo has nine). Jones’ wins above replacement rating (WAR) is the worst of his career (-0.9). He is also hitting only .230 with runners in scoring position.
Saltalamacchia, meanwhile, has made 13 errors (he had 13 for the Red Sox in 2012 and 2013 combined). He is also hitting a paltry .184 with runners in scoring position (he hit .252 last year), and his WAR (0.5) is only better than three catchers with at least 290 at-bats this season.
Both players are due raises next season, with Saltalamacchia on the hook to make $7 million in 2015 and Jones to make $5 million.
The Marlins’ top five players in WAR are the guys who don’t have playoff experience. They are: Giancarlo Stanton (6.2), Henderson Alvarez (3.7), Marcell Ozuna (3.4), Christian Yelich (3.3) and Tom Koehler (2.3).
Redmond decided Saturday to make veteran Brad Penny the starter Tuesday against the Mets.
Penny, 36, made his last start Aug. 14 against Arizona and had been regulated to the bullpen after Brad Hand was chosen to be the team’s fifth starter over the past two turns through the rotation. Redmond said the Marlins plan on keeping the fifth starter’s spot in the rotation open from start to start.
Eovaldi is 2-2 with a 2.35 ERA in 10 career starts against Atlanta. The only team he has posted better numbers against in his career (minimum four starts) is San Diego (1-1, 2.31 ERA).
“They’ve just been hitting the fastball,” Eovaldi said of his struggles. “I’m just trying to mix in the off-speed pitches to get them off the fastball. I’m not throwing it enough for strikes.”
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