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.

Evan Longoria: “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base.”

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The Rays were busy over the weekend, trading starter Jake Odorizzi to the Twins, designating All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, and then picking up C.J. Cron in a deal with the Angels. The Rays saved about $4 million — Odorizzi’s $6.3 million less Cron’s $2.3 million salary — and picked up a prospect. They’re still on the hook for Dickerson’s $5.95 million salary until they can find a trade partner, which seems likely.

Those are some head-scratching moves if you’re a Rays fan or a member of the Rays. Dickerson hit .282/.325/.490 with 27 home runs, 62 RBI, and 84 runs scored in 629 plate appearances last season, part of which resulted in his first trip to the All-Star Game. Designating him for assignment is strictly a financial move, assuming he can be traded. The Rays are currently operating with a payroll below $70 million. This comes just a week and a half after Rays ownership proposed the public footing most of the bill for the club’s new stadium. And the Rays had traded third baseman Evan Longoria — then the face of the franchise — to the Giants earlier this offseason.

Longoria expressed sympathy for Rays fans for having to put up with this. Via Andrew Baggarly, Longoria said of the curious Dickerson move, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base. … I’m not going to take too many shots but it’s pretty obvious that guy is a valuable player and didn’t deserve to be DFAd. Corey was our best player last year.”

Longoria isn’t quite on the money there. By WAR, Dickerson ranked fifth among position players on the team, according to Baseball Reference. FanGraphs is also in agreement. Still, it’s indisputable that Dickerson, who turns 29 years old this May, more than pulled his weight. The Rays do not have a surfeit of starting outfielders, so it wasn’t like they were making room for other capable players. Mallex Smith, who put up a .684 OPS in 282 PA last year, is slated to start in left field at the moment. Designating Dickerson for assignment, as well as trading Longoria and Odorizzi, were simply cost-cutting decisions.

The Rays’ M.O. has been part of the problem leading to the current stagnant free agent market (sans Eric Hosmer‘s eight-year deal on Saturday). Teams like the Rays, Phillies, Reds, and Tigers have been explicitly putting out non-competitive teams in order to facilitate a rebuilding process. Longoria is right to express sympathy for Rays fans, who see their favorite team worsening a roster that went 80-82 last year. The Rays haven’t finished at .500 or above since 2013 and doesn’t figure to halt the streak this year.