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Red Sox avoid arbitration with Jarrod Saltalamacchia

Oct 14, 2010, 6:56 PM EDT

The Red Sox still have little idea what their catching situation will be next year, but they did secure one option on Thursday, agreeing to terms with Jarrod Saltalamacchia on a non-guaranteed $750,000 deal.

The contract will pay him $250,000 if he spends the season in the minors.

Despite collecting just 24 major league at-bats this season, Salty was eligible for arbitration for the first time.  Since debuting with the Braves in 2007, he’s hit .248/.315/.386 with 23 homers in 813 major league at-bats.  Unfortunately, his best year was his first season, when he hit 11 of those homers.

Given his spotty track record both offensively and defensively, Salty probably won’t be promised anything entering 2011.  Like most arbitration contracts, this isn’t guaranteed, meaning the Red Sox could cut him next spring and pay him just one-sixth or one-quarter of the total amount, depending on the timing.

Oddly enough, Salty might actually have a better chance of making the team next year if the Red Sox downgrade from Victor Martinez at catcher.  The team would probably prefer a strong defender as a backup if they’re able to retain the free agent.

On the other hand, the Red Sox could pursue someone like Gregg Zaun or Rod Barajas and give Salty an opportunity to win the job in spring training.  That inexpensive solution would free up cash to re-sign Adrian Beltre and upgrade the outfield.  It’d be a risk, but should Salty disappoint in Boston like he did in Texas, the team would have a veteran ready to step in and could trade for another veteran at the deadline.

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