The Colorado Rockies made a somewhat surprising move on Friday afternoon, re-signing one of their former catchers to return to Coors Field for the 2018 season. But no, it was not Jonathan Lucroy.
Ken Rosnethal has reported that the Rockies have signed Chris Iannetta to a two-year contract which Jon Heyman is reporting is worth $8.5 million. The move seems to put an end to Colorado’s relationship with Lucroy, which began at last year’s trading deadline. Lucroy made a noticeable impact on Colorado’s rookie-laden pitching staff but will apparently not return in 2018.
The work that Lucroy did behind the plate to grow Colorado’s young rotation will now be passed along to Iannetta, who spent six years with the Rockies from 2006-2011. During that time, he averaged .235 and belted a total of 63 home runs while driving in 236 RBI. His best season for the Rockies came in 2008 when he hit .264 with 18 homers and 65 RBI.
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Iannetta went to the Los Angeles Angels in 2012 before playing a season in Seattle (2016) and Arizona (2017). He was not behind the plate when Arizona downed Colorado in the 2017 National League Wild Card game.
For 2018, Baseball Reference is projecting Iannetta to hit .226 with 14 home runs and 43 RBI. As a comparison, Lucroy hit .310 with two homers and 13 RBI in his 46 games with Colorado last season.
So what does this signing mean for the Rockies? MLBTradeRumors predicted that Lucroy would sign a contract for two years and $24 million, so Colorado has saved some money by signing Iannetta. That money will likely be funneled into Colorado’s search for bullpen help. The Rockies have been rumored to be in the hunt for both Greg Holland and Wade Davis to fill the closer role. Neither will come cheaply so the money saved at catcher could be moved toward signing one or both of those players.
It also frees up some money for Colorado to pursue other options at first base, outfielder and/or starting pitcher if it chooses to go that direction. Colorado general manager Jeff Bridich surprised everyone last season with the Ian Desmond signing so nothing can be ruled out.
At the age of 35 (his birthday is April 8) next season, Iannetta will likely see the majority of playing time but this also opens the door for Tony Wolters and perhaps Tom Murphy to see additional innings behind the plate.