Mariners News: Chris Iannetta Signing Appears Imminent


In between rounds of golf, Jerry Dipoto is making some serious noise this week at the General Manager Meetings in Boca Raton, FL. The Seattle Mariners have been connected to Brett Gardner, re-signed Franklin Gutierrez, and now it appears are close to signing free agent Chris Iannetta.

The Mariners are on the hunt for a veteran backstop this winter, and Chris Iannetta is said to be their top choice. Dipoto is very familiar with Iannetta from his time with the Los Angeles Angels. In fact, Dipoto handed the 32-year-old a three-year extension with he club following the 2012 season.

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Iannetta had a miserable campaign in 2015 with the Halos. He posted a .188 batting average with 10 home runs and 34 RBI across 92 games. The Providence, RI product registered a .293 on base percentage and slugged a meager .335 through 317 plate appearances. He was replaced as the Angels’ everyday catcher midway through the season by Carlos Perez.

Despite his lackluster production last season, Iannetta is still considered a quality backstop. In 2014, he hit .252 with 7 home runs and 43 RBI. Iannetta spent the first six seasons of his career with the Colorado Rockies before being shipped to the Angels in 2012. He has posted a .231 batting average with 100 home runs and 378 RBI over the course of his 10-year career.

Iannetta is steady but unspectacular behind the plate. His .996 fielding percentage in 2015 bested the league average of .994. However, the University of North Carolina alum’s arm leaves plenty to be desired. He threw out 25% of potential base stealers last season, which fell well short of the 32% league average.

The Mariners struggled to get on base in 2015, and Dipoto has made a concerted effort to improve in this area. Coincidently, getting on base is Iannetta’s specialty. The veteran catcher sports a career on base percentage of .351. Iannetta knows what he is doing in the batter’s box, and would fit in nicely in the bottom third of the M’s lineup. It’s unclear whether the M’s view Iannetta as a full-time starter or as a potential platoon partner for Mike Zunino.

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Zunino took significant steps backwards with the Mariners in 2015. The 24-year-old hit .174 with 11 homers and 28 RBI across 112 games before being demoted to triple-A Tacoma on August 30. Zunino was then sent to the Instructional League in Arizona to overhaul his swing. Some have floated the idea of keeping Z in Tacoma for the entire 2016 season. That might be a bit of an overreaction, but I don’t think it is too farfetched to suggest Zunino will begin next season with the Rainiers.

It’s hard to say whether Iannetta is an upgrade over Zunino. Iannetta’s offensive numbers are more impressive, but there questions about whether he will be able to rebound from his horrendous 2015 season. He has never done a great job handling pitchers, and that is Zunino’s strength. Defense is paramount behind the plate, and Zunino is the far superior backstop in this regard.

Next: M's Re-Sign Franklin Gutierrez to 1-Yr Deal

I am very much in favor of the Mariners inking Chris Iannetta to a contract. He is a decent everyday catcher, and would make for a good platoon partner with Mike Zunino. Having an experienced backstop around to mentor Zunino would be ideal, as that is something he has never been exposed to during his career.