The Colorado Rockies and free agent catcher Ramon Hernandez have come to terms on a two year contract worth $6.5 million. Hernandez was by far the best catcher available on the free agent market this off season, putting up a .789 OPS and a .339 wOBA in 328 plate appearances , on his way to collecting a Type A Elias ranking.
Under the terms of the new collective bargaining agreement, the Rockies have the added bonus of not having to give up what would have been a second round draft pick to his former team the Cincinnati Reds. Instead, Cincinnati will receive a supplemental first round pick as though Hernandez was a Type B free agent.
The signing allowed the Rockies to move ahead with their much talked about deal with the Los Angeles Angles, exchanging their starting catcher from last season, Chris Iannetta, for starting pitcher Tyler Chatwood. Iannetta will earn $3.5 million in 2012 and had a 2013 club option for $5 million that he can now void because of the trade. Chatwood, still under team control for several years, threw 142 innings as a rookie in 2011, and he hasn’t even turned 22 yet.
It’s a curious signing and trade in that the Angels could have pursued Hernandez themselves and not have had to give up a young starting pitcher for what looks like similar production in Ianetta. While the former Rockies catcher has the advantage of playing in the offensively friendly confines of Colorado, both catchers had noticeably similar offensive numbers last season and profile as similarly talented at throwing runners out, but not at framing pitches in the strike zone or blocking errant pitches.
Ianetta may be seven years younger than Hernandez, but that likely doesn’t mean a lot considering he only has one more year left on his current deal.
Perhaps most importantly, the trade likely means the end of the road for Jeff Mathis, who despite ample opportunities for the Angels, was consistently among the worst batters each season. Moving forward, it’s expected that Ianetta will become the everyday starter with Hank Conger backing him up. Although, I suppose there’s a possibility that Conger goes back to Triple A to get more at bats and Mathis sticks around as the team’s backup.