DENVER, CO: Catcher Chris Iannetta #20 of the Colorado Rockies throws to first base for the first out of the second inning against the San Diego Padres at Coors Field in Denver, Colorado. The Padres defeated the Rockies 4-0. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
It's a backstop shuffle in Colorado, as the Rockies have signed free agent catcher Ramon Hernandez to a two-year contract, and traded catcher Chris Iannetta to the Angels in exchange for Tyler Chatwood.
This is a little bit complicated. Ordinarily, we write posts about individual transactions. This is a post about a pair of transactions. The proper thing to do would probably be to split them apart, but the easy thing to do is to lump them together, and it's not like these two transactions aren't related to one another anyway. So, off we go. We begin with Ken Rosenthal:
Hernandez deal with #Rockies will be two years, $6.5 million.
Here the Rockies are sending catcher Chris Iannetta to the Angels in exchange for starter Tyler Chatwood. Two moves, three names, all right!
Let's unwind all this. What's going on? First, Hernandez: Hernandez is 35 years old. He spent the last three seasons in Cincinnati, the last two of those as an above-average hitter. Hernandez will serve as the Rockies' new regular catcher, and while age is a concern, the price tag is fairly low, and this is a guy with a 112 OPS+ since 2010, and a 98 OPS+ over his career. Hernandez will probably work out okay.
Signing Hernandez allowed the Rockies to flip Iannetta for a starting pitcher, which the Rockies badly needed. Of course, it's an open question as to whether Tyler Chatwood is going to help them. As a rookie last season, Chatwood generated 71 walks and 74 strikeouts in 142 innings. Which is bad. But Chatwood was 21 years old and was rushed through the Angels' system, so he could improve. Command and missing bats have always been issues for him, but he was Baseball America's No. 76 prospect in baseball last spring for a reason. There could be something there.
And this leaves us with the Angels. For the Angels, I wouldn't say that Chatwood was expendable, given what "expendable" implies, but he was available and the Angels have been in the market for help behind the plate. Presto, Chris Iannetta.
Iannetta posted a .370 OBP last season, and has a career 99 OPS+, which takes into consideration the fact that he's played half his games at Coors Field. He isn't highly regarded for his defensive work, which could end up being a problem, what with Mike Scioscia's established preferences, but one figures the Angels probably wouldn't trade for a catcher like Iannetta if they didn't intend to use him a lot. There are the obvious Mike Napoli remarks to be made, but then, Mike Napoli wasn't acquired. He was drafted and developed.
Iannetta should take over as the regular catcher. This could finally spell the end for Jeff Mathis, who is a candidate to be non-tendered. I don't want to get ahead of myself, since this is Jeff Mathis and the Angels. But remember, the Angels are under new front-office management now. New people, new priorities.
Iannetta is under contract for $3.55 million this coming season. This trade apparently voids a 2013 club option, meaning Iannetta could become a free agent after the year. At that point, I don't know, maybe it'll be time for Hank Conger. Or more Chris Iannetta. Or more Jeff Mathis. Who's to say! You and I are not to say.
Expect the Rockies to keep looking for starters, even after landing Chatwood. And expect the Angels to keep looking for starters, since they have one fewer now than they did Wednesday morning.