10 p.m. update: The Marlins are one of three teams in the mix to sign Red Sox free agent catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, an official in touch with the team's front office told us earlier this evening. Minnesota and Boston are the other contenders, according to an industry source. Financial parameters have been discussed with all three teams.
The Boston Globe reported that even though the Red Sox have made an offer, they are unlikely to retain Saltalamacchia, which would leave the Marlins and Twins competing for him. [UPDATE: On Tuesday morning, the Red Sox agreed to terms with free agent catcher A.J. Pierzynski.]
The Marlins are eager to add an offensively-skilled catcher, and Saltalamacchia is coming off his best offensive season: .273, with 14 homers, 40 doubles and 65 RBI in 121 games. But he has thrown out only 19.9 percent of base stealers the past two years and hit .222 in 2012.
Saltalamacchia, 28, grew up in West Palm Beach and is open to the idea of returning to South Florida.
The Marlins had strong interest in former Cubs free agent catcher Dioner Navarro, but he agreed to terms with Toronto earlier Monday.
The Marlins expect Jeff Mathis to return as the backup catcher and for Rob Brantly to begin the year in the minors. If they can't sign Saltalamacchia or another free agent, they will look for a starting catcher via trade.
But they were very much in the Saltalamacchia competition as of Monday evening, with a decision expected as early as this week.
### In a bit of a surprise, the Marlins did not tender offers to Chris Coghlan and Ryan Webb, thus allowing both to become free agents. The deadline to offer arbitration to arbitration-eligible players was midnight tonight. The Marlins' other arbitration eligible players were tendered: Giancarlo Stanton, Logan Morrison, Steve Cishek, Justin Ruggiano and Mike Dunn. But Morrison and/or Ruggiano might end up being traded.
Snippets from Monday’s news conferences with Dolphins coach Joe Philbin and his offensive and defensive coordinators:
### On Lamar Miller’s work (22 carries for 72 yards): “I’m delighted. Mike Sherman did a great job sticking with the run. He had one explosive run on an outside zone play. We’re looking for the ability to break some more tackles.”
### On Olivier Vernon, who is now tied for fifth in the league with 10 sacks: “He’s a good player. He’s worked extremely hard since he got here. He’s built off of that. He did a good job on the matchups yesterday.”
Philbin said the Dolphins like to line Vernon up in different places. He also likes that the tape showed “there are clips of him hustling and pursuing the football when it’s a completed pass.”
### He said the offensive line, which blocked well in the running game and allowed only one sack, “seems to be improving. We had 25 first downs. It’s a tribute to those guys. We didn’t make a lot of mistakes up front.”
### On Ryan Tannehill, whose 331 yards passing were second-highest in his career: “Ryan did a good job taking what was there. Ryan was good on his progressions and decision making and spread the ball around. We got a lot of balls underneath that helped us out.” By the way, Tannehill completed 8 of 11 passes for 134 yards when blitzed.
### On breaking the pattern of alternating wins and losses: “I said to the team it’s important we build off this type of performance. We told the team we’re not going to reinvent ourselves from a schematic standpoint in December. We should have identity by now – things we do well. The last two weeks have been our best weeks of practice.”
### I asked Philbin to list the things he believes his team does especially well: “We’re starting to get turnover margin where we want it. It’s on plus side. [Plus 2, to be exact]. Our offense in two minute [situations] has been really, really good. Defensively, we’re starting to inch up toward the type of defense we wanted to be. We’re ninth in the league in points allowed.”
### One storyline this week will be Mike Wallace’s return to Pittsburgh. Philbin said his message to Wallace would be simply to “have a great week of practice,… know his role in the plan,… and take it to the game.”
### Sherman said he and Philbin have never discussed what Lamar Miller might be able to do with more carries. He said Miller’s bigger workload Sunday was purely a result of Miami having 82 plays, combined with Daniel Thomas’ injury. (Plus, Miami was ahead most of the game.)
“Most backs will tell you they are more effective with more carries and I would tend to agree,” Sherman said. "We’re been going with the hotter of the two hands [between Miller and Thomas]. Once one exerts himself as the guy, that person will probably get the bulk of the carries. I’ve always been part of offenses with one featured back. We haven’t quite done that this year. Yesterday was as close as we’ve gotten to featuring one guy. We had a fair amount of runs at the end of the game. Lamar needs to get more explosive runs with 22 carries. [But] I thought he ran hard and was physical.”
Miller ran for 72 yards but had just a 3.3 per carry average. Miller played 65 snaps, Mike Gillislee 10 and Marcus Thigpen nine.
### Sherman joked that there must be a “rule” the offense can’t top a certain amount of points. (The Dolphins are the only team that hasn’t scored at least 28 in a game.)
“We still hit that ceiling,” Sherman said. “What’s wrong with scoring 30-35 points? Gosh dang, we had so many opportunities and left points on the field.”
### Sherman said the offensive line “did a good job of blocking. With so many new faces, it’s a challenge for Jim Turner.” Miami gave up only one sack and ran for 125 yards against the league’s stoutest run defense.
### Rookie tight end Dion Sims played a season-high 44 of Miami’s 82 offensive snaps, which Sherman said was a function of wanting “to run the ball more” and use more two tight-end sets than three receiver sets. Charles Clay played 70 snaps, Michael Egnew 27.
### On Clay’s outstanding season, Sherman said: “[Injured] Dustin Keller was a phenomenal addition [but] I never thought Clay was anything but a starter since Day 1. Not to say there wasn’t a package for both of them. Dustin would have had his role, too, as a starter.
“He’s making clutch catches he didn’t make all the time last year. He’s making them more consistently. He really works on his craft. I’ve seen the young man develop his talent – little nuances, his eyes, his shoulders. He’s such a great kid. Smile on his face every day.”
Sherman said he told Clay, jokingly, during a practice last week that if he didn’t execute a particular play during a game: “You will be working with my buddy in Atlantic City selling cotton candy. He said, ‘I want to sell ice cream.’”
### On Vernon: “He has been a demon in one-on-one pass rush since training camp. He’s a slippery guy, very powerful for what you might say is an undersized pass rusher, plays with great leverage and strength. He certainly has stepped up his game.”
Pro Football Focus said he played very well against the run on Sunday, as well.
### Coyle agrees that Philip Wheeler has improved recently: “He’s playing with a lot more confidence, a lot more sure of himself. He flies around. He had a heck of a game yesterday.” Coyle said Dannell Ellerbe also is playing well.
### And one other linebacker comment from Coyle was significant, because several people (including myself) have asked whether it might be worth trying Dion Jordan at Koa Misi’s outside linebacker spot.
That sounds unlikely, considering Coyle offered this unprompted Monday: “Another guy I can’t say enough about is Koa Misi. When you watch the tape, there is nobody that plays any harder than Koa Misi or is more effective. He’s had a heck of a year.”
Misi played only 22 of Miami’s 55 defensive snaps on Sunday, compared with 51 for Ellerbe and Wheeler.
### Coyle, on Brent Grimes’ year: “Unless you [focus in] on him, you don’t realize how good a job he’s doing on some of the receivers he’s matching up with. He supported the run yesterday. He’s something else. He’s a phenomenal athlete, has incredible eye/hand coordination and athleticism. I think he sleeps with the football. He has a ball in his hands every day. He makes it look so easy in practice at times.”
### Rookie cornerback Will Davis got 13 snaps Sunday – he allowed an 18-yard catch that Coyle admitted he wasn’t happy about – because Dimitri Patterson and Jamar Taylor were injured but also because in the “last two weeks, he had really good weeks of practice. He’s coming around. He’s got exceptional hands.”
### With Pittsburgh awaiting Sunday, Coyle – the Bengals’ former defensive backs coach – noted he has coached 17 times against Ben Roethlisberger.
“He’s a unique challenge in that so many of his plays he’s able to extend and create plays, different than a lot of quarterbacks,” Coyle said. “He’s not running for the first down necessarily. He’s throwing bombs down the field. You see it time and time again.”
Note: Please see the last post for a breakdown of some Dolphins playoff permutations.