Last Friday, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported that the Colorado Rockies signed Chris Iannetta to a two-year deal. Is this the right move for a team looking to keep pace with the upstart Diamondbacks, or a very deep Dodgers team?
The reaction from around the baseball community has been resoundingly optimistic about this signing of Chris Iannetta. This has been a financially friendly deal that’s allowed the Rockies to be aggressive in their search for bullpen help by signing Bryan Shaw and Jake McGee. If you check out our very own Kevin Henry’s day 1 recap of the Winter Meetings, and the subsequent rumors and reports that have come out since then, the Rockies have not feigned any interest in additional catching help so far.
By signing Iannetta, the Rockies have essentially exchanged catching performance for financial flexibility. That’s not a dig on Chris Iannetta by any stretch. He’s still a solid offensive player that can produce in the right situation. However, we need to have clear expectations on the type of player Iannetta will be for the Rockies. Let’s take a look at his offensive splits this last season with the Diamondbacks. He certainly had a solid year given the amount of games he played in. Obviously, he fared better against left-handed pitching, as well.
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What the Rockies blueprint could look like
If the Houston Astros are your blueprint for getting to and winning in the World Series, having a strong defensive catcher has to be in the plan. Unlike other positions on the field, there is a premium on the defensive side of the game for catchers.
Not only is making defensive plays a strong proponent to the success of the team overall; being able to work with a pitching staff, call an effective game, and frame pitches are all important skills once a team gets into the post season. Chris Iannetta does none of those things with any kind of average level of consistency.
For example, according to FanGraphs, Iannetta has a Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) rating of -2, which puts him slightly below average in terms of his total defensive value.
As it stands, Rockies appear to be focused on bullpen and a first base help, with no rumblings of interest in any additional catching help. Bob Nightengale of USA Today also reported that Chris Iannetta’s contract has a 2020 option that automatically vests if he starts combined 220 games as a catcher in 2018 and 2019 seasons. So, it seems that the Rockies would be content on letting Chris Iannetta slide into a starting role with Tony Wolters and Tom Murphy filling out the rest of the depth chart behind the dish.
Considering that Chris Iannetta has not played 110 games since the 2013, and will be 35 years old at the start of next season, it doesn’t require a hot take to highlight the fact that Iannetta will only be playing in 85-90 games next season. As you can see from last season’s production out of Wolters and Murphy, the value that they bring on offense alone is minimal at best; Especially when you consider they would have to play somewhere between 72-77 games as a backup. Even in a platoon situation based on matchups, this doesn’t look promising at all.
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It is still pretty early in the offseason. The Rockies have plenty of time to make a move that could justify Chris Iannetta as the starting catcher. There is no sense in being hasty, either. However, they shouldn’t settle on mediocrity if they have the capital to improve.
The clear and most logical path would be to keep talking to Jonathan Lucroy. He’s consistently been one of the top offensive catchers in the game over the last several seasons. In addition, he’s good defender and one of the top pitch-framers in the league according to StatCorner.
As mentioned earlier, no rumblings on conversations with catchers…but that’s no reason to unglue our eyes from Twitter.