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The Marlins are close to a deal with catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, confirms Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports says the team offered a three-year contract worth roughly $22 million. An agreement is expected within 24 hours.
Saltalamacchia, 28, is from West Palm Beach, about an hour north of Miami, so joining the Marlins would be something of a homecoming. He is easily the best free agent catcher left on the board since Brian McCann (Yankees), Carlos Ruiz (Phillies) and A.J. Pierzynski (Red Sox) have already agreed to deals.
In 121 games this past season, Saltalamacchia hit .273/.338/.466 (118 OPS+) with 14 home runs. He swatted 25 homers in 2012, but otherwise 2013 was a career year offensively. Saltalamacchia is just adequate on defense and below-average at throwing out runners -- his career 23 percent throw out rate is well below the 27 percent league average.
The Marlins have some money to spend this winter and were looking for a veteran backstop to pair with backup Jeff Mathis. They still have holes on the pitching staff and at second and third bases. The team has a history of trading it's biggest free agent pickups after a year or two, so it'll be interesting to see if Saltalamacchia pushes for a no-trade clause.
The Red Sox did not tender Saltamacchia a qualifying offer, so the Marlins or any other club will not have to forfeit a high draft pick to sign him.