You'll notice the title is in past tense. I don't want Jarrod Saltalamacchia now, at whatever he's going to cost. Jon Heyman predicted Salty is due for a 3 year, $30 million deal, to which I say no thanks. But I do think Brian McCann's 5/85 deal with the Yankees is a good time to talk about what Jarrod Saltalamacchia could have cost the Red Sox.
A minimum qualifying offer (MQO), is the minimum one year contract you have to offer a pending free agent if you want to get a draft pick in exchange for that player's departure. This year the MQO was $14.1 million. We gave MQOs to three players: Jacoby Ellsbury, Mike Napoli, and Stephen Drew.
That might sound like a lot to offer Salty, but last night Brian McCann happened. However much an overpay you think $14 million is for Salty (and let's be clear, it most definitely IS an overpay), I don't think anybody can say we'd be in a sounder place financially by signing Brian McCann for 5/85.
Trusting the Machine
We don't even need the better catcher, we need the catcher Gotham deserves. We need the catcher who doesn't get in the way of the prospect machine, who can be a one year a bridge to Dan Butler/Christian Vazquez/Blake Swihart. And maybe Ryan Lavarnway who can be a kind of catcher silly-putty that fills in the gaps as we hop from one young catcher to the next.
To be clear I'd rather have Salty decline the offer and give us the draft pick. Jonathan Papelbon left and we got pitching prospects Brian Johnson and Pat Light as compensation. Victor Martinez left, giving us two excellent pitching prospects in Matt Barnes and Henry Owens. Adrian Beltre left and we got Blake Swihart and Jackie Bradley.
This team built its prospect "machine" to a large extent on compensation picks. And while we can't game the system under the new CBA as well as we could under the previous one, we can still game it.
What can the Red Sox afford?
As Rob Bradford told me (I'm cool now, right?) there was a prevailing thought in the Red Sox front office that Salty would accept the MQO if it were extended.
Alex Speier says the Red Sox have roughly $32 million to spend this offseason if they want to stay under the $189 threshold. The recently acquired Burke Badenhop will probably subtract around $2 million. Paying Salty leaves us with $16 million to spread between first base (Napoli?), the outfield (Franklin Gutierrez!), and whatever else we choose to do.
That's spreading it thin, but only for one year, not three or five. Now that 5/85 earmarked for McCann can go toward extending one of Bogaerts/Bradley/Middlebrooks/Owens/Ranaudo at some point in the near future.
But what about Hanigan/Kottaras/Navarro?
Any of those guys could work. I'm just trying to emphasize that any universe where Brian McCann is worth 5/85 to the Red Sox is a universe where we'd be better off with Salty for 1/14.