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The new Angels are smarter than the old Rockies

Nov 30, 2011, 9:06 PM EST

Chris Iannetta Getty Images

In trading Chris Iannetta for Tyler Chatwood and signing Ramon Hernandez, the Rockies are probably thinking that they made at worst a sideways move behind the plate and picked up a potential middle-of-the-rotation starter in return.

And in thinking that, they are most likely very wrong.

Hernandez is coming off two fine years for the Reds in which he finished with OPSs right around .790, making him one of the NL’s better offensive catchers. Going by OPS+, they were the second and third best seasons of his career, with only hisĀ 2004 coming out better.

Hernandez, though, turns 36 in May, his defense can only be charitably described as average and he hasn’t played in 100 games since 2008.

Iannetta, meanwhile, is likely still on the upswing. He turns 29 in April, and while he hasn’t had a typical offensive growth curve, he also wasn’t always used properly by the Rockies under Jim Tracy. In spite of that, 2010 was the only rough year he’s had in his last four. He finished at .238/.370/.414 last season. Alex Avila and Carlos Ruiz were the only full-time catchers with better OBPs.

It’s not a slam dunk that Iannetta will outhit Hernandez over the next two years. He will do more defensively, though, and he’ll be able to handle the greater workload. And my guess is that he will be the superior hitter. Going from Coors Field to Anaheim will be a bit of a shock to the system (he had massive home-road splits last season, though that wasn’t the case in previous years), but he’ll definitely benefit from not hitting in front of the pitcher every night, as was the case in Tracy’s lineup.

And I really don’t expect the Rockies to get a whole lot in return for the downgrade. It was somewhat impressive that Chatwood held his own in the majors as a 21-year-old last season, but he had a brutal 74/71 K/BB ratio to go along with his 6-11 record and 4.75 ERA in 142 innings. A fastball-curveball pitcher without a quality third pitch, he needs more Triple-A time and he’s far from a lock to ever have a successful stint in the Rockies rotation.

So, score one for the Angels and new GM Jerry DiPoto here. The upgrade from Jeff Mathis to Iannetta behind the plate should net them three wins or so next year. The Rockies, meanwhile, are still floundering, in large part because Tracy believes a player is only as good as his last 75 at-bats. GM Dan O’Dowd should be worrying more about talent than catering to his manager.

  1. lyon810 - Nov 30, 2011 at 9:11 PM

    The Halos rip off yet another NL West team

    • Kevin S. - Dec 1, 2011 at 9:21 PM

      Ironically enough, the last time they ripped off an NL West team, it was their current GM getting the short end of the stick. Maybe Moreno promised him a cushy gig if he gift-wrapped Haren for them?

  2. jelatin18 - Nov 30, 2011 at 9:28 PM

    In evaluating the Rockies thinking on trading Ianetta, please feel free to completely ignore Wilin Rosario.

    • Matthew Pouliot - Nov 30, 2011 at 9:38 PM

      He’s 22, and for all of his defensive promise, I really doubt he’ll be an asset next year. I know he’s in the Rockies’ plans for the near-term. I just don’t think he should be.

    • Mark - Dec 1, 2011 at 7:20 AM

      You’re right, we should really factor in the guy who struck out nearly 5 times as much as he walked in AA, which is painful when he doesn’t hit for average or walk much to begin with. And then on top of that, he showed he wasn’t major league ready by striking out 20 times in 57 PA. Compared to 2 walks over that time.

      He would and has been eaten alive by major league pitching. He’s a non-factor.

      • Mark - Dec 1, 2011 at 7:21 AM

        And this is why I shouldn’t post when I’m tired. I misread your post. My bad.

  3. boston25rocketman - Nov 30, 2011 at 9:50 PM

    Where do the Rox see Jordan Pacheco? Is he good enough behind the plate to get regular action there or will he be seeing time elsewhere.

    • mondogarage - Nov 30, 2011 at 10:35 PM

      Right now, Pacheco probably profiles more as an eventual super utility guy, getting more work at 2B and 3B than behind the plate.

      • boston25rocketman - Nov 30, 2011 at 10:51 PM

        Hopefully he finds a spot, seems to have a nice bat. For Coors anyways.

  4. jimatkins - Nov 30, 2011 at 9:55 PM

    Please, please let this be the beginning of the end for Jeff Mathis, the steaming crater at the end of the Halo batting order. That being said, we still have a steaming crater named Vernon Wells up towards the top, so things still have a long way to go.

  5. lyon810 - Nov 30, 2011 at 10:17 PM

    Hey Matt, you’re going to look really dumb when my Angels shell out for CJ Wilson. Jokes on you!

    • lewp - Nov 30, 2011 at 10:25 PM

      I think the Nationals are the only team foolish enough to pay C.J. 100 M.

      • Marc - Dec 1, 2011 at 1:02 AM

        I completely agree with that. The only way I see them not actually paying him $100 mil+ is if they continue to be distracted by wanting to overpay for some centerfielder either through trade (BJ Upton) or through free agency (Yoenis Cespedes).

  6. Curt Anderson - Nov 30, 2011 at 11:27 PM

    Ianetta was supposed to be the next great thing ever since his stint in the WBC. Never happened, and a change of scenery will be good for him. Rosario will be a fixture sooner rather than later and Chatwood might find a home in the 4 or 5 spot or the bullpen. Hernandez provides insurance and a good bat off the bench.

  7. mjay424 - Dec 1, 2011 at 12:04 AM

    The Rockies get Hernandez, who they think will be an improvement with his batting average and give Wilin Rosario more time to develop (which Rosario absolutely needs). In Chatwood, the Rockies are likely getting, at worst, a solid middle reliever, and possibly a decent no. 4 or 5 starter. He had 25 starts in 2011 as a rookie, a young one, had showed very good results in 7 starts. That’s a start. He has poor control, is not a strikeout pitcher and he must learn to be a thinking man’s pitcher as well as refine his pitches. The Rockies gave up on Iannetta. They could have done worse with the return they received.

    Rockies’ Analyst (google)

  8. clydeserra - Dec 1, 2011 at 3:36 AM

    So you think one guaranteed year of Ianetta is better that a 22 year old pitcher with about a year of service time?

    OK.

    • paperlions - Dec 1, 2011 at 7:31 AM

      Starters that both walk and strike out about 5 per 9 IP aren’t worth much. Now, he may improve on those numbers…but there is nothing in his minor league record to suggest that he will, and he most certainly won’t pitching 1/2 his games in Coors. He looks like a back end starter or long-reliever; no plus pitch, no 3rd pitch. He is still young, but he had no business being in the majors last year, and he hasn’t shown anything above high A.

      • clydeserra - Dec 1, 2011 at 9:42 AM

        I agree with all of this, although I am not so convinced his 69 innings in AA ND 20 IN AAA define him. He shouldn’t have been in the majors last year.

        I just question the piece in general that giving up a fomer top 100 pitcher for one year of a 3 WAR catcher when others were freely available is a way smarter move than trading two years of a catcher for 5 years of a potential back end starter and signing a 2 WAR catcher for less money.

        To me, the rockies treaded water at catcher for less money and added a guy with promise. The worst I would call it is a wash.

  9. purnellmeagrejr - Dec 1, 2011 at 7:50 AM

    “The upgrade from Jeff Mathis to Iannetta behind the plate should net them three wins or so next year.” I had to laugh when I got to this line – MattP really, really believes in fancy stats – to me it seemed like – “When I get to Heaven, as a result of the sacrifices I’ve made here on earth, I expect one of the better spots.” I mean it’s possible the upgrade will result in three more wins – but it’s also possible the new pickup will strain an oblique, lose a month to mononucleosis, have vision issues, – etc. These statistics like WAR are not accurate predictors of an individuals performance – they only work over a larger sample. As I’ve always said – out of a hundred people scientists know 2 will be millionaires- one will be a murderer, three will be teachers – but they don’t know which ones!

    • paperlions - Dec 1, 2011 at 8:00 AM

      That’s okay, I simultaneously shake my head and roll my eyes at nearly every one of your posts, which could result in a strained neck or eye muscle if I’m not careful, potentially severely affecting my CAR (comments above replacement) for the next season.

      • purnellmeagrejr - Dec 1, 2011 at 8:34 AM

        paperlions – you’ve been traded for Halladaysbicepts – you can either accept the trade or try your luck in Japan.

      • paperlions - Dec 1, 2011 at 8:37 AM

        If that means Japan or Philly….I’ll take Philly….better food….and it won’t take me as long to learn to speak the language.

  10. sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Dec 1, 2011 at 11:08 AM

    Good for Ianetta. He goes from playing behind the inferior Olivo to playing behind the vastly inferior Mathis.

    Unless the Angels can discover and cure whatever disease Scioscia has that causes him to value Mathis over far superior players, this move won’t make much difference.

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