MIAMI — The Miami Marlins' free agent deal with catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia will be remembered as a bust. They are optimistic his rookie replacement will fare much better.
Saltalamacchia was designated for assignment Monday, even though he has nearly two seasons left on the $21 million, three-year contract he signed before the 2014 season. He played poorly last year and lost his starting job early this season to top prospect J.T. Realmuto.
President of Baseball Operations Michael Hill shrugged when asked where he ranked Saltalamacchia among the Marlins' bad agreements.
"I don't have a disappointment list of poor signings," Hill said. "But it's one unfortunately that didn't work out.
"He still has almost two years left on his deal, so it took long hard consideration. But the emergence of J.T. definitely made it easier to have confidence in such a young, athletic, energetic young man behind the plate. Our pitchers seem to respond to him very well."
Realmuto, a third-round pick in the 2010 amateur draft, began the week batting .265 in 11 games and has played well defensively.
The Marlins will try to trade Saltalamacchia but likely will wind up releasing the South Florida native. Either way, they probably will be responsible for the bulk of the nearly $14.2 million remaining on his contract: $6,158,470 this year and $8 million next season.
If he clears waivers, any team could sign him for a prorated share of the $507,500 major league minimum, and what the Marlins owe him would be reduced by that amount.
Saltalamacchia batted .222 last year with a slugging percentage of .357, worst among regular catchers. He also committed 15 errors, the most by a catcher since 2003. This year he is 2 for 29 (.069) with 12 strikeouts.
Saltalamacchia played his final game for Miami on Thursday, and then went on paternity leave. In a phone call Sunday, Hill informed him the Marlins were parting ways and said Saltalamacchia took the news like "a complete pro."
"I think he was as disappointed as everyone that it hadn't worked out," Hill said.
Saltalamacchia has been in the major leagues since 2007 and helped the Boston Red Sox win a World Series championship in 2013.
The Marlins have rebounded from a 3-11 start. Last week they won four consecutive games Realmuto started.
"J.T. is composed; that's the biggest thing," closer Steve Cishek said. "As a catcher, there's a lot thrown at him, and he has handled it well. He's a good athlete too."
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