Chris Iannetta

The new Angels are smarter than the old Rockies

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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 his 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.

The Marlins have made a “monster offer” for Kenley Jansen

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 18:  Kenley Jansen #74 of the Los Angeles Dodgers delivers a pitch against the Chicago Cubs in the eighth inning of game three of the National League Championship Series at Dodger Stadium on October 18, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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OXON HILL, MD — The morning after Aroldis Chapman signed for a record $86 million, the Miami Marlins are reported to have made similarly lucrative offer to the other top free agent closer, Kenley Jansen.

Jeff Passan of Yahoo says that the Marlins have made “a monster offer” of five years and more than $80 million to Jansen. This despite the fact that the club is coming off of a 79-win season and, tragically, lost their top pitcher Jose Fernandez in a fatal boating accident, which will substantially harm their competitive prospects. While it seems like a stretch to say that the Yankees will compete for a playoff spot, thereby making such an historically large investment in a closer a bit suspect, the Marlins doing so is even more questionable.

Meanwhile, the Nationals are said to be interested in Jansen as well, though Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post says the Nats are “uncomfortable” with the financial commitment signing him would require.

Jansen most recently pitched for the Dodgers and there have been no reports that they’re totally out on him, but there has been nothing to suggest that they are pushing hard for him either.

Jansen, 29, finished this past season with 47 saves, a 1.83 ERA, and a 104/11 K/BB ratio in 68.2 innings. That’s not quite Aroldis Chapman good, but he seems poised to collect something close to Aroldis Chapman money.

The Yankees are paying $86 million for a one-inning reliever

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OXON HILL, MD — The Yankees signing of Aroldis Chapman late Wednesday night came as something of a surprise. And the money — $86 million — was something of a shock. Yes, we knew that Chapman was going to break the bank and likely set a record as the highest paid relief pitcher in history, but seeing it in black and white like that is still rather jarring.

In the coming days, many people who attempt to analyze and contextualize this signing will do so by pointing to the 2016 playoffs and the unconventional use of relievers by Terry Francona and the Indians and Joe Maddon of the Cubs. They’ll talk about how the paradigm of bullpen use has shifted and how relief pitchers have taken on a new importance in today’s game. Chapman’s astronomical salary, therefore, will be described as somehow more reasonable and somewhat less shocking than it first seems.

Don’t buy that jive for a second.

Yes, Andrew Miller and, to some extent, Chapman himself were used unconventionally in the 2016 playoffs, but not long into the 2017 season we will see that as an exception, not the rule. And not just because Chapman showed himself unable to hold up to that level of use in the playoffs. It will be the exception because the Yankees have shown no inclination whatsoever to deviate from traditional bullpen usage in the past and there is no reason to expect that they will do so with Chapman in the future.

As you no doubt remember, the Yankees had Chapman, Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller for the first half of 2016. Such an imposing back end of a bullpen has rarely been seen in recent history. All of them, however, were used, more or less, as one-inning-a-piece guys and no real effort was ever made to break any bullpen usage paradigms or to shorten games the way many applauded Terry Francona for doing in the playoffs.

Miller pitched 44 games for the Yankees, totaling 45.1 innings. He pitched more than a single inning on only three occasions. Chapman pitched 31 games for the Yankees, amassing 31.1 innings. He was used for more than one inning only twice. Betances worked in 73 games, totaling 73 innings. On 11 occasions he pitched more than one inning.  It was unconventional for a team to have three relievers that good, but they were not, in any way, used unconventionally. Nor is there any reason to expect Chapman to be used unconventionally in 2017, especially given that Miller is not around and Chapman has shown no real ability to be stretched for multiple innings for a sustained period.

None of which is to say that having Chapman around is a bad thing or that he is any less of a closer than his reputation suggests. It’s merely to say that the Yankees paying Chapman unprecedented money for a closer should not be justified by the alleged new importance of relief pitchers or that changing role for them we heard so much about in the playoffs. Indeed, I suspect that that changing role applies only to pitcher use in the playoffs. And I do not suspect that this transaction alone pushes the Yankees into serious playoff contention, making that temporary unconventionality something of a moot point in New York for the foreseeable future.

It is almost certain that the Yankees are paying $86 million for the same one-inning closer Aroldis Chapman has been for his entire seven-year career. His contract may or may not prove to be a good one for New York based on how he performs, but don’t let anyone tell you now, in Decemeber 2016, that it’s better than you think because Chapman will somehow transform into a 1970s-style relief ace or something.