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Chris Iannetta signing a good start, but Rockies not yet done with catcher position

Rich Allen Avatar
December 8, 2017

On Friday, the Colorado Rockies signed the best catcher in team history to a reunion, bringing Chris Iannetta back to Denver on a two-year, $8.5 million deal.

But was it the right move?

Iannetta put together a very strong season for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2017, perhaps the best in his career and certainly since the 2011 trade that ended his first stint in the purple pinstripes. In only 89 games, he clubbed 17 homers, one shy of his career-high, ranked only behind Mike Zunino in isolated power in catchers with at least 200 plate appearances and still managed to reach base more than 35 percent of the time. His .254 batting average and .865 OPS haven’t been higher since 2008. The glove has always been there, even as he’s gotten older, and figures to continue to be.

However, a couple things should give you pause about this move. First, his wRC+ last year was 43 and 42 points higher than his previous two, when he was a below-average hitter by a fair margin. The games played stat is the other point of concern, especially combined with the fact that he’ll be 35-years-old only two days after the home opener. He hasn’t played triple-digit games since 2014 and has never played more than 115 in a single season.

He’s on the wrong side of 30 to expect that to change, making it a less than ideal commitment for the Rockies if they are expecting him to be the No. 1 catcher on the team. While he is familiar with the effects regularly playing at altitude has on the body, he is still a 12-year veteran of the most physically demanding position the sport has to offer who will be working in the hardest recovery environment in MLB.

There has been no word on what the team expects Iannetta’s role to be, or if they are done adding talent behind the plate.

But, for a contending team, this move alone is underwhelming. His track record indicates the team will be significantly reliant on another catcher, and the team’s current backup options of Tony Wolters and Tom Murphy showed they were not ready to handle a such a prominent role last season. While they have the ceilings to get there, 2018 is too important of a season for the Rockies to take that gamble.

I outlined how important it is for the Rockies to have a prevalent bat in the catcher’s slot in this article, and was concerned about relying on the young tandem of being able to produce what was needed. Iannetta figures to only resolve that issue for at most 70 percent of the season.

Iannetta, who was voted to the Rockies All-Time 25 team four days ago, is a key figure in the team’s history and will have the opportunity to build on that legacy in the next two years. Production wise, he will likely be up to the task should his role be every day, and it doesn’t hurt to take a key contributor to last year’s D-Backs away from them. But, he likely will need some help, making the Rockies still one catcher short of where they need to be.

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