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Tigers ink catcher Saltalamacchia to 1-year deal

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- While the Tigers finished up their starting pitching needs by finalizing a deal for Mike Pelfrey, they also added a veteran backup catching candidate by signing Jarrod Saltalamacchia to a one-year contract on Sunday.

The deal will pay the Major League minimum to Saltalamacchia, who will make $8 million as part of the three-year contract he signed with the Marlins two years ago. The 30-year-old will go to Spring Training and compete for a roster spot alongside James McCann, general manager Al Avila said from baseball's Winter Meetings.

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The Marlins released Saltalamacchia last May after a 2-for-29 start to his season. He finished the year in Arizona, where he hit .251 (43-for-171) with 14 doubles, eight home runs, 23 RBIs and an .805 OPS. Combine the two stops and he hit .225 with a .745 OPS, around his same OPS for most of his big league career before a standout 2013 season in Boston not only earned him a World Series ring but propelled him into free agency.

Though Saltalamacchia is a switch-hitter, the bulk of his damage this past season came batting left-handed, which is what appealed to the Tigers as they pondered the idea of another backup catching option besides Bryan Holaday.

"The opportunity came to be able to sign Jarrod," Avila said. "Obviously we like his pop from the left side. We think that that is going to play. So we'll see how that turns out in Spring Training. He's a veteran guy. He's been to the World Series."

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Saltalamacchia can also play first base, but his value is behind the plate. And unless the Tigers decided to carry three catchers, he'll compete with Holaday for the second catcher spot, filling the void left by Alex Avila going to the White Sox. It was more a luxury than a need.

"In our to-do list, it's on there," Avila said. "I can't say it was a top priority, because we like Holaday. And I'll be perfectly honest with you, every year, we always look for that kind of combination. It's difficult to find, and it seems like every year we've tried to do something and we couldn't. This year it kind of fell into place with Jarrod, and we think it's pretty good."

Jason Beck is a reporter for Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast.
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