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.