For years, former St. Raphael Academy all-stater Chris Iannetta has heard his name dropped as an oft-rumored trade chip. On Wednesday night, the real thing went down.
The Colorado Rockies, the only organization Iannetta has ever known, traded the 28-year-old catcher to the Los Angeles Angels in exchange for pitcher starting pitcher Tyler Chatwood.
“We’re very happy for him. This will be a great opportunity,” said Alan Nero, Iannetta’s agent. “Usually when you get traded, someone wants you pretty bad.
“Every year there’s been rumors because there’s always been teams interested in him,” continued Nero, a Rhode Island native. “Catching is a commodity and Chris is a very intelligent guy and he’s got a lot of upside. When teams trade for you, not only do they want you, but they are counting on that upside.”
Asked how Iannetta took the news, Nero answered, “Anybody who gets traded is shocked at first. We all resist change, but after the news sunk in, I think he’s very excited about the opportunity.”
There are a couple of reasons why Colorado went ahead and traded Iannetta, who not too long ago was looked upon as the franchise’s long term solution at catcher. The Rockies appear on the verge of signing free agent Ramon Hernandez to a two-year deal worth $6.4 million.
Stack Hernandez and Iannetta up side-by-side and you’ll see both were similar players from an offensive standpoint last season. Hernandez, who is seven years Iannetta’s senior, hit .282 with 12 home runs and 36 RBI in 91 games with Cincinnati. Conversely, Iannetta batted .238 with 14 homers and 55 RBI while generally hitting in front of the pitcher in Colorado’s lineup.
The Rockies are also high on Wilin Rosario at catcher. Last season the 22-year-old prospect smacked 21 home runs in 102 games for Double-A Tulsa.
“Typically Colorado just wouldn’t let him go, but at this point the timing’s right,” Nero said. “They’ve got a young catcher behind him who will eventually be given an opportunity. Plus they’re about to sign (Hernandez) and I think the timing is right for Chris.”
In 2012, Iannetta will embark on the third and final year of the $8.35 million pact he signed in Jan. 2010. His base salary with the Angels will be $3.55 million. The trade now voids Iannetta’s $5 million team option for the 2013 season.
Iannetta, who turns 29 on April 8, batted .235 with 63 home runs and 236 RBI in 458 games over six seasons with Colorado. A fourth-round pick out of the University of North Carolina in 2004, Iannetta struggled to get going in the first month of the 2009 season upon his demotion to Triple-A Colorado Springs. A similar fate played out again in 2010 as Iannetta spent close to two months in Class AAA before rejoining the Rockies.
To work up close with Angels manager Mike Scioscia, a former big league catcher himself, is something that Nero believes will work to Iannetta’s advantage.
“The deal wouldn’t have happened if (Scioscia) didn’t want Chris badly,” Nero said.