Jarrod Saltalamacchia: Trade Bait?

As we all know by now, the Red Sox find themselves at 43-43, .500, at the All Star Break. That's good for tied for last place in the AL East, and tied for 6th in the Wild Card standings. As we near the July 31 trade deadlines, the obvious question is what will the Red Sox do at the deadline: buy, sell, or stand pat.

Buying is typically the most obvious way a contender can improve, yet the Red Sox may not necessarily find themselves in a position to buy: here's why.

1: More buyers means a higher price for potential targets.

This works twofold, as there are not only more teams buying because of the new 2nd Wild Card, but there are also less players available, because less teams are willing to give up on the season. The result of this is only a few marquee players available, who will cost a lot in terms of prospects.

2: Change in Type-A eligibility.

The new CBA has drastically reduced the number of Compensatory picks that will be made in upcoming drafts. To earn Comp picks, a team must give a player a 1 year qualifying offer of about $12 million. Only top-tier free agents would turn down such an offer. Furthermore, any player traded midseason cannot yield Type A status, regardless of a qualifying offer. Because of the Red Sox's financial situation, it is doubtful that they could resign a player for that kind of money. Any rental would be just that--a rental--who would likely cost a top prospect.

That being said, the Sox have been decimated with injuries, and are only .500 despite outstanding performances by players who weren't expected to do so. One of whom is Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

I'm going to preface this by admitting that Jarrod Saltalamacchia has proven to be a much better player than I ever would have thought. I am suggesting this strictly from a baseball standpoint, not any kind of personal vendetta. Many here at OTM have suggested selling, names such as Daniel Nava, Cody Ross, Kelly Shoppach, Ryan Sweeney, various bullpen arms, and even Jacoby Ellsbury--but not Jarrod Saltalamacchia (to my knowledge). Salty's season on the surface appears to be much better than last year offensively and defensively. His 17 homeruns to date put him on pace to hit over 30 for the year, phenomenal for a catcher. And his numerous bombs of 420+ feet have demonstrated that the power potential that made him a top prospect years ago is finally being realized. However, the remainder of his statistics are eerily similar to his 2011 campaign, which was underwhelming at best, outside of a power surge in June and July. In 2011, his OBP was .288, his walk rate was 6.3%, and his K rate was 30.8%. His 2012 numbers are almost identical: .287, 6.1%, and 28.3%.

The point is, Salty's power is outstanding, no doubt. But the rest of his offensive game is much less impressive. As I alluded to above, less sellers and more buyers will result in a better return. All of the NL division leaders are in need of a catcher and a power bat. The point is, we may be able to sell high on Salty because of his power.

Salty's contract is also something to consider. He will be going into his 3rd year of arbitration next year, which may give him around $6 million next year. The bigger concern, however, is that he will be a free agent after 2013. The Sox will already have a tough call on Jacoby Ellsbury that offseason, and project to still have a lot of money left on the books for 2014. Yadier Molina and Miguel Montero each signed big 5-year extensions this past offseason for $75 million and $60 million respectively.

This leads to my final point. Ryan Lavarnway is ready to go. Many of us here at OTM were hoping that he would emerge as a regular on this 2012 Red Sox team over the offseason, and he has put up a solid line of .310/.401/.461 this year for Pawtucket. The power is down, but he is catching full time, which takes a toll on the body. He is 25 years old, and because this is his second go-around in AAA, he is ready to assume catching duties at the major league level.

So while I appreciate Salty emerging as a power threat and am excited about the prospect of having another 30+ home run hitter in the lineup, it makes a lot of sense to see what he would return on the trade market.
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