Why Chris Iannetta Fulfills Angels' Large Need at Catcher

Gil ImberAnalyst IIDecember 1, 2011

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - SEPTEMBER 27: Chris Iannetta #20 goes down to his knees after being hit with a pitch against the San Francisco Giants during an MLB baseball game at AT&T Park on September 27, 2011 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Angels acquired Chris Iannetta from the Colorado Rockies Wednesday, sending pitching prospect Tyler Chatwood to Denver in the process.

For the Angels and GM Jerry Dipoto, Iannetta's acquisition is a much-needed addition to a roster that has seen poor production from the catcher's position since the 2010 departure of Mike Napoli.

As October turned to November and the 2011-2012 offseason progressed, the Angels—and the club's fans—made no secret of the need to bolster the catching position.

Angels fan and writer Dan Soderberg predicted before Thanksgiving that "Improving the club's catching depth will be one of DiPoto's [sic] first priorities."

Dipoto's recent move to procure Iannetta has clearly demonstrated that. 

In all fairness, the Angels could not get much worse in the catching department than their 2011 lineup. Rookie catcher Hank Conger hit only .204 with a .284 on-base percentage, six home runs and 24 RBI.

Veteran catcher Jeff Mathis saw over 50 percent more playing time than Conger in 2011, but his numbers were decidedly worse: a .174 batting average, .225 on-base percentage, three home runs and 22 RBI.

In choosing Iannetta, Dipoto has made a sensible choice: Iannetta is a fairly cheap veteran pickup, set to command a mere $3.55 million in 2012.

With a .238 average, .370 OBP, 14 HR and 55 RBI, Iannetta is significantly better than both Conger and Mathis. In homers and RBI, he is better than the two 2011 Angels catchers combined.

As a former Colorado Rockies player himself, Angels General Manager Jerry Dipoto might have some special insight in regards to the Mile High City.
As a former Colorado Rockies player himself, Angels General Manager Jerry Dipoto might have some special insight in regards to the Mile High City.Tom Hauck/Getty Images

In discussing the move, Dipoto referenced Angels manager Mike Scioscia, saying it is very important that Scioscia be on board with the players Dipoto adds to the team. Said Dipoto, "[Iannetta] fits in the clubhouse and brings a presence behind the plate that Scioscia will appreciate."

Dipoto also justified his disposal of Chatwood, a talented pitcher in a veritable sea of Anaheim hurlers—names that include Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, Ervin Santana, Jerome Williams and Garrett Richards.

If the Angels are indeed still interested in trying to acquire free agent pitcher C.J. Wilson, Chatwood's departure is a necessary move to clear space for the former Rangers star.

If not, the Angels still have a solid rotation in place for 2012.

Defensively, the Angels had the best ERA in the American League in 2011 while pitching the most innings. The Angels had the sixth-lowest batting average against and fourth-lowest WHIP.

Only the Tampa Bay Rays gave up fewer earned runs than Anaheim.

On offense, the Angels had only the seventh-best batting average in the 14-team AL, with the 11th-best OBP, they also finished in 10th place in runs scored. AL teams with a worse OBP in 2011 than the Angels included the Oakland Athletics, Minnesota Twins and Seattle Mariners.

This is a great trade because the Angels come away with a much-needed catcher who can hit and reach base.

In the end, it is much more vital to improve on their below-average offensive numbers than their league-best ERA and other top pitching statistics. The Angels are already a superb pitching team.

With Iannetta now playing in Anaheim, the Angels can hopefully follow suit with their offense.