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When Jarrod Saltalamacchia was traded from the Atlanta Braves to the Texas Rangers in 2007, he and Elvis Andrus were the marquee prospects sent to Texas in return to slugging first baseman Mark Teixeira. Over the past few seasons, many teams have inquired about the Rangers’ plethora of catchers; Saltalamacchia, Taylor Teagarden and Max Ramirez. As recently as spring training Ramirez was the most available and the Red Sox had plans to send the injury riddled Mike Lowell, a player removed from his prime, to acquire the prospect. Saltalamacchia and Teagarden were envisioned as the catching duo to lead the Rangers to the playoffs this year, their own version of the young catchers behind the plate for Anaheim – Mike Napoli and Jeff Mathis. Half a season later, Salty is wearing a PawSox uniform for a small package of prospects.
Saltalamacchia’s arrival in Texas, while not the spectacle of the Matt Wieters promotion in Baltimore, was somewhat muted. Salty has found himself losing his starting job, battling injuries and riding the shuttle back and forth between the Ballpark at Arlington and the minor leagues. In parts of four seasons with the Rangers, the switch hitter compiled a .243/.309/.383/.692 line with 19 home runs and 32 doubles over 653 at bats. In contrast, Salty’s minor league line is a much healthier .271/.366/.457/.823 over parts of eight seasons and 1607 at bats. The missing element in his game in the majors has been power as Saltalamacchia hasn’t slugged over .371 since the 2007 season.
A shoulder injury in 2009 was as tough on Salty’s health as his .290 on base percentage was to his offense. Going on the disabled list in August 2009 with Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, where a rib is pushing against a nerve and causing trouble in the neck and shoulder, Saltalamacchia missed September. He had surgery in hopes of being ready for the 2010 season. Unfortunately, at the start of the season Saltalamacchia injured his back, hid the injury from the team, and found himself back on the DL. Upon being activated from the disabled list, Salty found himself banished to the Triple A Oklahoma City where he has hit .244/.326/.445/.771 this year with 11 home runs in 238 at bats.
Acquiring a player like Saltalamacchia for a low price was a good move. It wasn’t so long ago that trade talks mentioned Lester or Buchholz, neither of whom the Red Sox wanted to part with, for the catcher. At just 25 years old, Salty still has time to make an impact in the major leagues. He’s worked on his defense and throwing, he’s gotten over some of the injuries, and he could be ready to march towards his next major league stint. At the worst, he’s insurance against losing Victor Martinez.