Angels Acquire Iannetta

Chris Iannetta is finally free. After employing the worst starting catcher in baseball last season (min 250 plate appearances), the Los Angeles Angels decided to seek out an upgrade. Despite some success in the majors, Iannetta never endeared himself to the Colorado Rockies’ front office. After seasons of speculation, the Rockies finally gave up on the 28-year-old catcher, trading him to the Los Angeles Angels for Tyler Chatwood. With the full backing of his new organization, will Iannetta make the Rockies look foolish?

The Angels were in clear need of an upgrade at catcher, and Iannetta looks like a solid acquisition. Unlike Jeff Mathis — who is one of the worst hitters in the game — Iannetta has shown good power, and strong plate discipline skills over his career. Iannetta’s .235/.357/.430 career slash line provides an extremely accurate view of what the Angels should expect from Iannetta next season. Due to his low contact rates, he’ll never hit for a high average, but he more than makes up for that with his power and walk rate.

While Iannetta is a massive upgrade over Mathis, his acquisition also signals an organization change by the Angels. When Jerry DiPoto was hired, he talked about the importance of on-base percentage and upgrading the catcher position. In that regard, Iannetta looks like the perfect fit for the new regime. Iannetta also comes relatively cheap, and should easily outperform his $3.55 million salary as long as he receives adequate playing time.

The Rockies acquisition of Chatwood is slightly more puzzling. Last season, Chatwood flirted with some dangerous peripherals. His unsightly 4.50 walk rate nearly matched his 4.69 strikeout rate. While he has decent velocity on his fastball, it was his weakest pitch according to his pitch type values. That’s somewhat problematic considering he threw it nearly 75% of the time last season. In fact, none of Chatwood’s pitches received a positive rating last season. His 4.6% swinging strike rate, combined with his poor walk rate make him a dangerous fit in his new park. Unless he’s able to drastically improve on those numbers, Chatwood is going to have little margin for error as a starting pitcher.

The other issue with Chatwood is that he’s not a clear upgrade over any of the Rockies current starting pitchers. Putting Chatwood in the rotation likely comes at the expense of either Alex White or Drew Pomeranz — who were both acquired in the Ubaldo Jimenez deal last season. Chatwood is just 21-years-old — so there’s definitely a possibility that he’s still developing — but White and Pomeranz look like the more promising players at this time.

In Iannetta, the Angels acquire an above average starter at a thin position. He fits perfectly with the new regime, and signals a change in philosophy that the Angels sorely needed. By acquiring Chatwood, the Rockies must hope there’s some growth left in his arm. Though he’s still young, Chatwood’s performance last season was not promising, and he looks like a back-end starter at best. Mike Scioscia may have run Mike Napoli out of town last off-season, but Chris Iannetta will be his atonement for that mistake.




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Chris is a blogger for CBSSports.com. He has also contributed to Sports on Earth, the 2013 Hard Ball Times Baseball Annual, ESPN, FanGraphs and RotoGraphs. He tries to be funny on twitter @Chris_Cwik.


57 Responses to “Angels Acquire Iannetta”

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  1. williams .482 says:

    Don’t worry, Mathis. Mike Scioscia will never give up.

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    • Yirmiyahu says:

      Exactly.

      I expect Iannetta to be marginalized by Scioscia in the same way Napoli was when he was there. The only way to improve the Angels catching situation is to take Scioscia’s binky away.

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    • I wonder if Scioscia would take Eli Whiteside and a novina for Mathis.

      Just kidding, but if it’s a low ball contest I’d put Whiteside up against Mathis any day.

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  2. Angelsjunky says:

    Just a nitpick: Iannetta’s career triple-slash is .235/.357/.430…you gave his 2011 numbers.

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  3. MC says:

    Whatever you do, DON’T look at Iannetta’s home/road splits. AAAAAAAAAAGH!

    Angels got clobbered on this one.

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    • J says:

      Don’t think angels got clobbered because they didn’t give up a lot, but I don’t see Iannetta being an “above average starter” away from Coors. Given that his wRC+ away from coors is 60 over the past three years, hard to project him as anything but a below average hitter for the Angels. Add the change of leagues to the equation, and Ianetta looks more like 1-1.5 WAR player given 400-500 PAs. Still a decent move for the Angels, given their need for catching.

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    • LittleCupcakes says:

      Small sample size warning.
      VS AL .250/.363/.431
      Anaheim Stadium .316/.409/.632

      Better than Mathis. The Angels need a catcher, and maybe (maybe) overpaid, so well worth it.

      Call it even, more or less, with Chatwood’s eventual career as the decider.

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    • Pat says:

      I think alot of the H/R noise in the Rockies numbers can be attributed to the lack of familiarity with pitches that break hard….

      At Mile High Stadium, its not so much that everything travels further (hasnt bee that way since they installed the humidor) but its that breaking balls don’t gain as much movement from the spin (the seams catch less heavy air therefore displace the ball less)… so when coors players travel, they have to “readjust” every time they hit the road… i bet if you looked at his road splits by game (ie AVG in game 1 on the road, game 2 on the road, game 3 on the road…) it would get better each day…

      I would venture to guess that while Coors does inflate offense due to its massive dimensions, i bet he suffers alot less than one would expect

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      • Sandy Kazmir says:

        That’s an interesting thought. I looked at this by Plate Appearance to see if there was something here. The samples get pretty small as you move down the ordinance, but it seems like the inverse is actually happening:
        http://i273.photobucket.com/albums/jj216/SayHeyRays/IannettaChart.png
        Here’s a look at the expanded table so you can see sample sizes:
        http://i273.photobucket.com/albums/jj216/SayHeyRays/IannettaTable.png

        Initially it appears that you may be right that there is an adjustment period for the first seven plate appearances on the road, but then he actually hits a bit better on the road through roughly the next seven plate appearances. The biggest divergence is seen after 16 plate appearances. We see that after 16 PAs he really starts to hit the cover off the ball at home while looking like a mess on the road. This could be a familiarity issue or just points to how difficult a long road trip can be for a team. This is one look that I haven’t done for any other players so I have no idea if it’s the norm, but your thoughts spurred me to take a look. I thank you for that.

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    • DavidCEisen says:

      His career road wRC is 81 given players typically play worse on the road, I don’t see how it is difficult not to project him as at least a 85 wRC+ guy, which for a catcher is more than fine and worth about 2 WAR. Given the Angels didn’t give up much, it’s hard to see them as being ripped off.

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    • Yirmiyahu says:

      Okay, for argument’s sake, let’s pretend he’s entirely a product of Coors and throw out his home stats. His career road line is .208/.338/.369/.707. Over his 6-year career, he is one of 43 catchers in baseball with 500+ road PA’s. Among that group, he ranks 19th in wOBA. So he’s still an above-average catcher on the road. For context, the players closest to him in road wOBA are Ryan Doumit, David Ross, Yadier Molina, John Buck.

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      • MC says:

        Yeah his road splits for some reason were far worse the last 3 seasons than they were earlier in his career.

        But from the Rockies perspective, this is really a no-loss move. They signed Ramon Hernandez who will probably be just as good as Ianetta if not better. And they get a 21 year old pitcher locked up long-term, basically for free (considering that they signed Hernandez). Whereas, if you’re the Angels, why not just sign Doumit, Hernandez, Jose Molina, whatever? I really don’t understand their thought process as it seems it was cheaper to acquire FAs catchers this offseason than by trade.

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  4. Brennan says:

    Slight nitpick, but weren’t Iannetta’s walks have been boosted from batting the 8-hole in an NL lineup? There’s reason to believe he won’t show that much plate discipline in the AL.

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  5. Nate says:

    Iannetta’s OBP may dip when he no longer racks up intentional walks for batting in the 8th spot in front of the pitcher. What do you think?

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  6. Tim E says:

    Should probably mention his home/road splits, they are very bad.

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    • Brian says:

      The home/road splits are so confusing…

      From 2007 and 2008, Iannetta has better road stats than at home.

      From 2009 to 2011, Ianetta has better home splits than on the road.

      Curious case.

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      • rotofan says:

        Nothing confusing at all. His career OPS at home is .869 and on the road it’s .707.

        What’s misleading is your summary of the splits. In 2008 his road OPS was .897 and home OPS .893. The former is in no way meaningfully better than the latter. That’s absurd.

        In the past three years his home OPS has been .837, .975 and .869 while his road OPS has been .656, .574 and .587. Those are striking differences.

        The ONLY year he hit better on the road was in 2007 in 197 ABs, and while he hit significantly better on the road, he has been nothing short of awful the last 822 ABs on the road.

        Of course Mathis isn’t even in the same area code as awful so Ianetta is an improvement.

        I also think Conger has more upside as a hitter than either of them despite some struggles in a limited number of at-bats. His minor league record and scouting reports suggest he’s offer all the walks and power of Ianetta with a considerably higher batting average. I like his bat. His struggles have been defensively with a poor showing this year.

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      • Tom says:

        In fairness the Rockies are going to have a tough time on the road compared to other hitters as they don’t get road games in Colorado and they have to play 18+ games in San Diego and San Francisco.

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      • Awesome says:

        Miguel Olivo 2009 Royals Home OPS .737 R oad OPS.835 Miguel Olivo 2009 Rocks Home OPS .905 Road OPS .598
        using pure H/R splits to describe high altitude players is poor analysis

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      • Gregory says:

        ^so is using one year’s worth of splits.

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      • Awesome says:

        Cool let’s try this is it easier by total OPS or road OPS to tell when Jeff Cirillo became a Rockie?
        Total
        1996 .325/.391/.504 .894 OPS+121 wRC+120
        1997 .288/.367/.426 .793 OPS+106 wRC+108
        1998 .321/.402/.445 .847 OPS+123 wRC+129
        1999 .326/.401/.461 .862 OPS+119 wRC+121
        2000 .326/.392/.477 .869 OPS+100 wRC+97
        2001 .313/.364/.473 .838 OPS+98 wRC+96

        Road
        1996 .350/.404/.548 .951
        1997 .289/.371/.436 .807
        1998 .329/.409/.469 .878
        1999 .300/.375/.454 .828
        2000 .239/.299/.329 .628
        2001 .266/.327/.383 .710

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  7. kyle says:

    15 IBB in his career. You lose those that 8 spot and a change to the American league and his whole approach must change. Right?

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    • Will says:

      Yeah, take away those 11 IBBs he got from the 8 spot, and his career OBP plummets from .357 to .351. Maybe Mathis might not be such a bad option after all…

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  8. Brian says:

    Ianetta is due $3.55M this year, then $5M next year or a 250K buyout. Seems like if they could get Ramon Hernandez for less, then Ianetta has very little contract value, if any. So dealing him for a flyer on a 21 year old live arm that you can stash and develop in AAA and replacing your catcher with a similar salaried, similarly skilled player seems like a pretty good deal for the Rockies. Maybe the Angels should have just made a play for Hernandez? Or am I underrating Ianetta?

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    • NS says:

      Ianetta can now void the 2013 option.

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    • Paul Wilson says:

      Ramon Hernandez is a wily vet; the type you’d like to help teach your young pitchers to pitch.

      Ianetta.. not so much. That’s where Mike Scoiscia comes in!

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    • Mike says:

      I completely agree with you Brian. We don’t know how much the Angels would have offered Hernandez if they were interested though, but Hernandez just signed with the Rockies for 2 years/$6.5 million, which assuming he makes the same in each of the next 2 years, means he will be making less than Iannetta.

      The better move for the Angels as you said should have been to get Hernandez.

      I don’t expect much out of Chatwood, maybe a #3 or #4 pitcher at best, but that’s still more valuable than an Average catcher (I say average because of his H/R splits) that you are only going to have for probably 1 year.

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    • john says:

      7 years younger?

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  9. Chones Figgins MVP says:

    Take me back Mike!

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  10. bender says:

    He was actually acquired to play backup to Mathis

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  11. jtud says:

    Chatwood is complete trash. If he’s lucky maybe he can inherit Dustin Moseley’s career. Don’t fathom where people are seeing upside to that dude.

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  12. IvanGrushenko says:

    Chatwood didn’t appear ready for the majors in 2011. Is it not possible that he’ll start in AAA? One year of Ianetta @ $3.55M for a B or B+ prospect doesn’t sound like a bad deal for the Rockies.

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    • Andrew says:

      That sounds like a pretty good deal to me. Now if only the Rockies actually got a B or B+ prospect…

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    • rbt says:

      That was my thought. Chatwood clearly needs more minor league time…a LOT more.

      He’s not a prospect any more due to innings pitched, but Sickels did have him as a B pre-season, and Baseball America had him at #76.

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  13. Bubba says:

    The Angels haven’t had a catcher with power and patience since some guy Napoli was on the team.

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  14. Awesome says:

    The Giants must be doing back flips in 56 Games he has a.338/.510/.586 line against them

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  15. Clearly Scioscia won’t be happy until they platoon Mathis and Drew Butera, but Terry Ryan probably asked for Vernon Wells in return.

    Sometimes I hate baseball.

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  16. Ronin says:

    He can now opt out of his contract after 2012, but as 2013 will be his 4th year of arbitration the Angels will still hold his rights. I think the opt out was his protection in case he has a good year in 2012 and stands to make more than 5M in arb.

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  17. john says:

    What kind of defender is Iannetta?

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    • griggs says:

      Defense?! We don’t need no stinkin’ defense.

      Yes, Angel fans Iannetta is quite good defensively. As with his bat, he isn’t an elite player but well above average. He is a valuable player and I doubt Colorado got back fair value. He is a little odd looking at the plate, he takes a lot of pitches – very effective as his numbers indicate. In the field, he doesn’t make many mistakes but is only average at throwing out runners. He is a starting quality player but I don’t think he would ever be an everyday catcher; In other words he is a 110 game guy but not 140 gamer.

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    • Awesome says:

      Decent arm, not Yadi territory but accurate and pretty strong, blocks piches better than most(certainly miles better at it than Olivo was), his framiing of pitches leaves a lot to be desired on the whole a slightly above average defensive catcher with good power, great patience, and poor contact.

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  18. Daniel says:

    What does this all mean for Hank Conger?

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  19. Eminor3rd says:

    Napoli out, poor-man’s Napoli in.

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  20. www.thehotteststove.com says:

    Fastballs get a decent boost in Denver, so maybe they were targeting a pitcher who likes to throw his fastball frequently to see how it plays out….. Not a lot of risk since they didn’t like Ianetta anyway, right? I like the deal for both sides.

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