The position of catcher for the 2017 Diamondbacks had been in a state of flux since the somewhat surprising decision by the new front-office to non-tender Welington Castillo, rather than pay him $6 million or so in arbitration. The team did sign veteran Jeff Mathis, a wizard of pitch-framing, but it seemed dubious that he would be able to play everyday, having averaged only 46 games over the past three seasons. There had been a suggestion that the team might be looking at Matt Wieters, but the team appears to have gone in another free-agent direction. For Jon Heyman of Fanrag Sports reported this afternoon:
sources: Chris Ianetta agrees to deal with the D-Backs— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) January 13, 2017
Iannetta certainly is much more the profile of an everyday catcher than Mathis, having appeared in 94, 92 and 108 games each of the last three years, for the Angels and Mariners. The 33-year-old catcher will be familiar to Diamondbacks fans, having come up through the Colorado farm system, and appeared for the Rockies from 2006-11. He was a solid performer in Anaheim for three years after that, but his production at the plate did drop off considerably in 2015 and 2016. Last year, he hit only .210/.303/.329, for an OPS of 75. Like Mathis, he’s a right-hander, so there won’t be any platoon potential there, and perhaps surprisingly after the Mathis signing, Iannetta doesn’t grade particularly well as a pitch-framer. Maybe one of those is enough?
Nick Piecoro has come up with the financial terms of the deal, saying it’s a one-year deal worth $1.5 million. That’ll be quite a drop from the $4.25 million he got from the Mariners last year, but seems about right given his age and production. While it does mean Mathis will actually be earning more, the move probably means, based on the recent history mentioned above, that Iannetta [keep telling yourself: two n’s, two t’s...] will be the everyday starter, and Mathis the backup, with Chris Herrmann serving as a potential third catcher and general factotum. Juan Graterol and Oscar Hernandez will occupy spots in the minor-leagues.