Friday, January 8, 2010

Catching Up With The Rockies Offseason

After the Colorado Rockies found themselves in the playoffs for the second time in three years there were questions as to what would happen as the offseason approached.

One of the Rockies self imposed offseason priorities was resigning clutch hitting catcher Yorvit Torrealba. For the past three seasons Chris Iannetta has been seen as the catcher of the future for the Rockies, but in both playoff years, Torrealba has supplanted his younger counterpart as the Rockies starter.

Not only has Torrealba passed Iannetta on the depth charts in those seasons, his play was a large reason why the Rockies found themselves in the playoffs. While there is no doubt that Iannetta is more physically talented, two out of three seasons Iannetta has not lived up to his billing.

The Rockies were true to their word and aggressively pursued Torrealba.

At the winter meetings in Indianapolis the club offered the Venezuelan a two year deal worth $5.6 million. Torrealba and his agent Melvin Roman were intent on a two-year deal worth $6 million.

In a baseball world that spends money as if they are playing Monopoly, a mere $400,000 seemed like an an easy bridge to gap. Unfortunately for both parties, talks broke down and the Rockies had to move on.

In the middle of the Torrealba discussions, the Rockies inked Iannetta to a three year deal that bought out the rest of his arbitration years worth just over $8 million. The move was very much in line with what the Rockies front office has been setting the precedent of doing with their young players. It is somewhat risky, but gives the mid-market club cost certainty.

Several published reports suggested that the Torrealba camp felt that the Iannetta signing was sending double messages.

As it became clear that the two sides would not be able to work out their differences, the Rockies moved on an signed journeyman catcher Miguel Olivo. The catcher will be playing for his sixth team in nine Major League seasons.

Olivo is thought to be a better defensive catcher than Torrealba, but also has been known to get careless behind the plate. On the offensive side he has more power than Torrealba, but also strikes out often and is known as a free swinger. In 2009 Olivo hit a career-high 23 home runs in 390 at-bats.

The move is interesting. It effectively cuts ties with Torrealba and presumably gives Iannetta the starting job. While Iannetta has all the potential in the world and showed growth in 2008, he needs to earn some Rockies fans confidence back after a down season in ’09.

With Iannetta and Olivo manning the plate for the Rockies in 2010 the power potential is a fun thought, but it might be slightly unsettling to think about the fact that Olivo will bring more strikeouts to a team that set a club record for fanning in ’09. Olivo struck out 126 times in ’09, roughly one in every three at-bats.

There is no reason to think that Iannetta will not have a breakout season. He has all the tools to be an All-Star catcher. However, it might be slightly unsettling for fans to put their hope in Iannetta returning to his ’08 form. The question will be asked, which year was the fluke?

The hope is that after losing his job to Torrealba in ’09 Iannetta will be motivated to prove that he should have been the everyday starter down the stretch. It is motivation that the Rockies hope will be the final step for Iannetta to become the catcher all the scouts have envisioned.

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