The Miami Marlins filled one of their biggest needs by agreeing to a three-year, $21 million deal with free-agent catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia pending a physical, according to multiple reports.
Saltalamacchia, who turns 29 in May, hit .272/.338/.466 with 14 home runs and a career-high 65 RBI in 121 games for the Red Sox in 2013.
The Royal Palm Beach High product is a lifetime .246 hitter with 78 homers and 275 RBI in parts of seven major league seasons with the Braves, Rangers and Red Sox.
After playing no more than 84 games in each of his first four seasons, Saltalamacchia became the starting backstop for three years (2011-13) in Boston, averaging 115 games.
While the Red Sox battled to their third World Series title since 2004, the Marlins’ front office began plotting its offseason.
Miami needed offensive help, particularly at the catcher position, and didn’t make it a secret following a historically bad year.
Jeff Mathis, who broke his collarbone on the first day of spring training and missed the first 40 games of the season, had the lowest batting average (.181) among catchers with at least 200 at-bats. He did hit five home runs and 29 RBI.
The 30-year-old managed a 3.15 catcher’s ERA, committed just one error and threw out 33 percent of would-be base-stealers for the second-best mark of his career.
Mathis, a nine-year veteran, came over from Toronto in last offseason’s blockbuster trade. He holds a .195 lifetime average.
That leaves Rob Brantly as the odd man out.
The 24-year-old will likely start the 2014 season in Triple-A New Orleans. Acquired in the Anibal Sanchez trade from the Tigers, he hit .290 with three home runs and eight RBI in 31 games in 2012.
Brantly began as the 2013 Opening Day backstop, but he was demoted 65 games in when he struggled offensively (.211/one HR/18 RBI) and defensively (five errors) as his playing time dwindled as Mathis’ backup.
Once thought of as the catcher of the future, Brantly can take more time to develop his game. He is not arbitration eligible until 2016.