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.

Seattle Mariners to make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani

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Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said in a team-sponsored podcast the other day that the M’s will make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani. To that end, Dipoto said that the M’s would be willing to let the two-way star to pitch and to hit, which is something Ohtani is interested in doing in the United States. Not all clubs are likely to let him do this, with most likely seeing him as a starting pitcher only.

Ohtani, who is expected to be posted by his Japanese team, the Nippon Ham Fighters, possibly as early as today, can sign with anyone he wants. He is, however, subject to the international bonus pool caps, so the bids on him will be somewhat limited. The Texas Rangers and New York Yankees have the most money available: $3.535 million for the Rangers and $3.5 million for the Yankees. The Twins ($3.245 million), Pirates ($2.266 million), Marlins ($1.74 million) and Mariners ($1.57 million) are the only other teams with more than $1 million left. Twelve teams — including the Dodgers, Cubs, Cardinals and Astros — are limited to a maximum of $300,000, having met or exceeded their caps for this signing period already.

Ohtani, however, is said to be less motivated by money than he is by finding the right situation. While a lot of guys say that, the fact that Ohtani is coming over to the U.S. now, when his financial prospects are limited, as opposed to waiting for two years when he is not subject to the bonus caps and could sign for nine figures, suggests that he is telling the truth. As such, a team like the Mariners that is willing to allow him to hit and pitch could make up for the couple of million less they have in bonus money to spend.

As for how that might work logistically, Dipoto said that the team would be willing to play DH Nelson Cruz a few days in the outfield to accommodate Ohtani, allowing him to DH on the days he’s not pitching. That might be . . . interesting to see, but given how badly the Mariners could use a good starting pitcher, they have an incentive to be creative.

Ohtani, 23, suffered some injuries in 2017, limiting him to just five starts and 65 games as a hitter. In 2016, however, he hit .289/.356/.547 with 22 homers in 342 at-bats and went 11-3 with a 3.24 ERA, and a K/BB ratio of 146/51 in 133.1 innings as a starter.

Five clubs have more money to spend on Ohtani than the Mariners do. None of those teams are on the west coast, which some Asian players have said in the past they preferred due to faster travel back home. The Mariners, owned for a long time by a Japanese company which still retains a minority interest in the club, and long the home for high-profile Japanese players such as Ichiro and Hisashi Iwakuma, likely have a better media and marketing reach in Japan than most other teams as well, which might be a factor in his decision making process. Is all that enough to sway Ohtani?

We’ll find out over the next couple of weeks.