Most of us didn't have big expectations for the trade deadline this year. The biggest names weren't the one's on Theo's shopping list, but on those on DL: Pedroia, Ellsbury, and everyone else. So the arrival of Jarrod "Salty" Saltalamacchia was quite the surprise.
But who is this guy? Why is his name so long? Does he agree with the Mayo Clinic that excessive sodium consumption is bad? Does he believe that Angelina Jolie is really a sleeper agent for Russia, or an innocent killer spy, or a sleeper agent posing as an innocent killer spy, or a crazy person who not only married Billy Bob Thornton but wore his blood around her neck?
None of those answers will be found here. Instead, we're going to look at Saltalamacchia's numbers and career thus far, and see if they provide any clues as to what we can expect from him.
In broad strokes:
Minors: .273 / .370 / .453 ; .823 OPS (7 seasons, 789 AB)
Majors: .251 / .313 / .388; .701 OPS (4 season, 794 AB)
Salty used to be regarded as one of the top catching prospects in the game. His ceiling was as a catcher who hit for power and average, like Victor Martinez or Russel Martin. He was the centerpiece of a package of 4 minor leaguers in the 2007 trade that sent Mark Teixeira to Atlanta. But his performance in the majors hasn't awed anyone. Worst of all, his numbers have worsened each year:
2007: .732 OPS
2008: .716 OPS
2009: .661 OPS
2010: has missed all but 2 games to injury (recovering from surgery for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome* and upper back soreness)
For all that, Salty has barely had two full seasons worth of AB in the majors, so you can't say that the 25 year-old is done for. Some players look mediocre or terrible in their first few seasons. I remember when Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester could barely throw strikes consistently, let alone get All Star status. David Ortiz languished for six years in Minnesota before reaching his potential, at the age of 27 . Others are late bloomers. Jason Varitek had a .716 OPS in his first season, at the age of 26. At age 27, he improved significantly, as his OPS rose almost 100 points to .813.
I like this trade. We're trading for potential, but not buying high, as happened in the Pena - Arroyo deal. There's a good chance that Salty doesn't make it, or isn't anything more than a backup; in which case the most promising guy we've lost is a reliever who throws in the mid-90s. Lest we forget, Manny Delcarmen, Craig Hansen and Ramon Ramirez all throw in the mid-90s; they just aren't spectacular relievers.
But if Salty somehow realizes the potential so many scouts and teams saw in him, the results could be very impressive, and Theo will be hailed once again, as a genius. Not the move we expected, and not one that's likely to help much this year, but it could have impact down the road.
* A rare condition in which a ballplayer finds sockets growing out of his back.