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The trouble with catchers

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So, there's a lot of talk about the Ranger catching situation right now, and in particular, Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

John Sickels did a Salty update earlier this week, talking about where he is now and why he hasn't developed as expected.  Joey Matches also did a post on Salty yesterday. 

Evan Grant has a blog post up talking about why the Rangers are publicly saying that the catching job is up for grabs, noting in particular the club's disappointment with his performance since he was acquired, his bailing on the winter league after two games because of shoulder soreness, and Salty's showing up for camp "ten pounds heavy and looking sluggish."

Jeff Wilson says that the job is really Salty's to lose despite the public proclamations to the contrary, and Grant also seems to be taking that point of view as well, with the public comments seemingly being used as a motivational tool.

Two and a half years ago, when there were rumors of the Rangers talking to the Braves about a Mark Teixeira trade, Saltalamacchia was so well regarded that some suggested that Teixeira for Salty straight up would be fair, that expecting anything more than that would be greedy. 

The trade is regarded as a steal, as a home run because Neftali Feliz and Elvis Andrus look so great, because Matt Harrison has shown flashes...and that has helped cover up the fact that, all in all, Jarrod Saltalamacchia has been a major disappointment since arriving.

He played first base some when he first arrived -- he had played some first base with Atlanta, after all, and was billed as a catcher who could hit like a first baseman -- but didn't do well there and, apparently, wasn't mentally on board with being a first baseman.  He struggled with injuries in 2008 and couldn't outplay Gerald Laird, and in 2009, was handed the job but still didn't hit before being sidelined with an injury again.  His OPS has dropped each year, and his plate discipline in 2009 was awful. 

The plus side with Saltalamacchia is that he is still young -- he doesn't turn 25 until May -- and catchers oftentimes take a little longer to develop offensively.  That said, this year appears to be put up or shut up time for him...his defense, while improved, isn't going to carry him, and he's either going to have to improve with the bat enough to stay in the starting lineup, or the Rangers are going to have to start shopping for a new starting catcher, potentially as soon as the trade deadline, if they are in contention.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out...I think the consensus is that Taylor Teagarden's future is as a backup, because of his durability and contact issues, and Max Ramirez's future is as a DH, not a catcher.  The lack of other viable options (a point that Grant illustrates in his blog post) means that it is going to be a major upset if Saltalamacchia doesn't have the starting job to start the year.

But whether or not he progresses offensively is going to be a big storyline this year, particularly given the problems the team had offensively in 2010.