Does Saltalamacchia show the Marlins are serious for 2014?

Does Saltalamacchia show the Marlins are serious for 2014?
December 4, 2013, 3:45 pm
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Why Doug Fister?

After going through 2013 with the second lowest payroll in baseball, and relying mainly on young prospects, the Marlins are back to signing big free agents.

Okay, catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia isn't a marquee name, but he was the second best catcher on the market behind Brian McCann. He was also listed as the 17th best free agent overall by HardballTalk earlier this offseason. It's not a minor move by any means.

The Marlins got Saltalamacchia for three years and $21 million. That's $7 million a year after spending roughly $36 million for their entire team in 2013. Their average salary was $1.135 million last year.

Saltalamacchia, 28, now becomes Miami's highest paid player. Is his deal a precursor for more to come this winter?

The Marlins could simply be in serious need of a catcher and, with the rest of their payroll extremely low, felt they could splurge a little bit to upgrade the position. Perhaps they have some other minor deals in mind in the coming weeks and months to fill out their roster.

The flipside, of course, would be this is the beginning of something bigger. Maybe the Marlins think they have the foundation to take the next step. 

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The Marlins' two biggest pieces are Giancarlo Stanton and Jose Fernandez. Fernandez is with the Fish through 2018 as he can't be a free agent until 2019. Stanton, on the other hand, can test free agency after 2016.

That likely leaves the Marlins with three more years having Stanton in store. The 24-year-old is a rare talent and will likely be out of Miami's price range when he is allowed to walk. Could the Marlins see the next three years as a window to compete with a team built around Stanton?

Miami got what they paid for in 2013 with the second worst record in the majors. They lost 100 games. They aren't a player or two away from being a postseason contender.

But they do have the game's best young slugger and arguably its best young pitcher. That should account for something. Maybe they realized they are closer than they think and filling out their roster around their two young stars could get them back to contention much sooner than many had expected.