The Market For Chris Iannetta

Most of the attention this week went to the signing of Ryan Howard, but the strangest move may have been Colorado's decision to send Chris Iannetta to the minor leagues.

Iannetta, 27, had a tremendous 2008, hitting .264/.390/.505 in 407 plate appearances. His numbers dipped somewhat in 2009, falling to .228/.344/.460, but that was still good for an OPS+ of 103, which put him in the upper echelon of hitting catchers. The Rockies clearly thought highly of his future as well, signing him to a three-year, $8.35MM contract this winter, with a 2013 club option.

So why would the team send Iannetta down on the strength of 34 poor plate appearances? And what's more, they did so in favor of Miguel Olivo, who is nearly five years older and has never had a season that approached Iannetta's 2008. It boggles the mind.

But with Iannetta out of favor in Colorado, it is hard to imagine the Rockies wanting to spend $8.35MM over the next three years on their Triple-A catcher. So which teams should have the most interest in Iannetta?

  • The Mets make a whole lot of sense as a landing spot. With Rod Barajas and Henry Blanco as the current major league catchers, the future is not planned for behind the plate with either one. Josh Thole is a promising catcher at Triple-A (though off to a slow start), but Iannetta projects to be the far better hitter than Thole, and hitting is Thole's ticket to the big leagues. And the Mets have the money to take a chance on Iannetta's long-term deal: even if he pans out as a backup, that salary doesn't kill them.
  • The Red Sox could be a strong contender for Iannetta's services. Obviously, Jason Varitek doesn't figure to be on the roster for the long-term, and the throwing skills of Victor Martinez (just 2 of 29 base stealers thrown out) makes his future at catcher tenuous at best. Martinez is also a free agent after the season. The Red Sox can also afford to take on his salary, even as a backup; Varitek, the backup this season, makes $3MM.  But as ESPN's Jayson Stark noted yesterday, the roster becomes a mess if the Sox add a catcher. 
  • The Royals have Wil Myers as their catcher of the future, but he's currently in Low A ball.  Iannetta could bridge the gap, even with Jason Kendall signed through next year.

Of course, plenty of other teams could benefit from the addition of Iannetta. Whoever ends up with Iannetta, the only one likely to regret it is the team trading him.

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