The Red Sox will not make a qualifying offer to Jarrod Saltalamacchia according to MLBTradeRumors.com's Tim Dierkes.
Source tells me Red Sox are unlikely to make a QO to Saltalamacchia.— timdierkes (@timdierkes) November 4, 2013
If that's the case, the decision comes as a fair surprise. One month ago, Saltalamacchia seemed a shoe-in for a qualifying offer coming off a regular season which saw him play 1000 innings behind the plate while hitting .273/.338/.466, good for sixth best at the position behind a number of players who fell well short of his innings total (Joe Mauer, Calros Santana, and Jason Castro). Finding a catcher who can actually swing a bat is no easy feat these days.
So why not extend the qualifying offer? Perhaps the postseason had something to do with it. Saltalamacchia was stunningly poor in the Red Sox' pursuit of their third world series title in 10 years, picking up just six hits in 35 trips to the plate, good for a line of .188/.257/.219. He was not alone in his struggles, to be fair, but his were some of the most pronounced, and unlike Stephen Drew he complimented his offense not with top-notch defense, but butchery that culminated in Game 3 of the World Series with his ill-advised throw to third effectively gifting the Cardinals a walkoff win. He was promptly benched, with David Ross starting the final three games of the Fall Classic.
Perhaps that performance has made the Sox shy away from bringing him back, even for just one more year. Or maybe they think it's reduced his market to the point where they can sign him for significantly less per-year on a longer-term deal. In that case, making a qualifying offer would make it hard to convince Saltalamacchia that, say, a $24 million, 3-year deal is reasonable.
The good news is that this is not one of those questions that goes unanswered. Jarrod Saltalamacchia will end up playing baseball in 2014 be it in Boston or with any of the other 29 teams. And when he's signed we'll have enough information to say whether the Sox were right or wrong to withhold an offer. Certainly there will be an asterisk--perhaps the market would not have been quite the same with a draft pick attached--but if Salty is getting three-year, $36 million deals chances are he would've gone either way. If he ends up back with the Sox for less, well, it's hard to complain.