New Marlins catcher Salty finds 'perfect fit' in Miami
Club introduces ex-Boston backstop, South Florida native, who signed three-year deal
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Clean shaven, save the rubble of a fresh goatee, Jarrod Saltalamacchia is embracing his new beginning with the Marlins.
After winning the World Series with the Red Sox, the 28-year-old officially signed a three-year, $21 million deal with the Marlins on Friday, and on Monday, Miami's new catcher was introduced by the organization at a news conference at the Winter Meetings.
Going from a championship team to a club coming off a 100-loss season may not appear to be an ideal situation, but Saltalamacchia called the hook-up a "perfect fit."
"In Boston, the year before, we had lost  games, and we went from last to first," the catcher said. "There is no reason why we can't do it here. We have a great corps of starting pitchers. That's where it starts and ends."
Promising pitching is the reason for optimism in Miami. The rotation, fronted by National League Rookie of the Year Jose Fernandez, is the strength of the franchise.
"I'm more excited now to come and catch bullpens and see these young guys," Saltalamacchia said. "With Boston, I was with a lot of veteran guys who had been around the league a long time. This is a young corps of pitchers who are still trying to figure themselves out."
The Marlins had little hesitation in offering a third year to Saltalamacchia, which sealed the deal.
"He's 28 years old, so a third year for him is not the same as a mid-30s catcher," Miami president of baseball operations Michael Hill said. "I think going into it, you have in your mind what you're willing to do for a player. Just knowing how important he is, we talk about upgrading our offense and upgrading our catching."
A Palm Beach County native, Saltalamacchia grew up watching the Marlins, and he attended 20 to 25 games a season.
"That's the team I watched growing up," the switch-hitting catcher said. "They were in my backyard."
Also a short 20-minute drive away is the Marlins' Spring Training complex at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter.
Making the transition from Boston to Miami also required Saltalamacchia to abide by the team's facial-hair policy, which requires no unruly beards. The more clean-cut look is a change from the Red Sox, where some players had beards that could rival the cast of "Duck Dynasty."
"My oldest [daughter] told me I looked like I was 14," Saltalamacchia said. "I wanted to grow it back again. It was tough. But this is a new chapter in my life. We'll move on and start something new over there."
Signing Saltalamacchia gives the Marlins run production from a position they weren't sure there were realistic upgrades on the trade market.
Miami ranked last in the Majors in runs scored and home runs in 2013. Saltalamacchia, meanwhile, batted .273 with 14 homers and 65 RBIs. He added 40 doubles.
In their evaluations, the Marlins felt Saltalamacchia compared favorably to Brian McCann, who signed with the Yankees. The former Red Sox catcher had a .466 slugging percentage in 2013, compared to McCann's .461.
McCann provides more homers (20 last year), but he added just 13 doubles.
"I thought we were going to have to get offense elsewhere and go with a defensive-minded catcher," Hill said. "And it worked out where you can get arguably the best offensive catcher on the market. You compare him with McCann and what McCann does offensively, they're different animals, but with his doubles, his home runs and his run production, [Saltalamacchia] is a productive player."
The Marlins are in the market for run producers, and the club took notice of Saltalamacchia's total extra-base hits.
Home runs may be hard to come by at spacious Marlins Park, but Saltalamacchia sees advantages if the team can capitalize on the gaps.
"I learned a lot these past few years in Boston about trying to use the park to your advantage," the catcher said. "The corners of the field, the gaps in Miami right there, we can take some extra bases."