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December 1, 2011

The BP First Take

Thursday, December 1

by Daniel Rathman

The Angels, making a smart trade to acquire an undervalued catcher? What is this, the Bizarro World?

Apparently so, as new GM Jerry DiPoto made acquiring Chris Iannetta from the Rockies for Tyler Chatwood his first order of business in Anaheim. Angels fans will be happy to find that Iannetta—a patient power hitter, albeit with holes in his swing—has some Mike Napoli to his game. While he's unlikely to replicate the 6.0 WARP season Napoli delivered for Texas, Iannetta should vastly improve on the lowly .192/.252/.302 triple-slash Halos catchers put up.

But the impressive thing about this trade for the Angels is that they didn't give up anyone they're likely to miss. Chatwood was rushed to the majors to fill a dire need in the rotation last season, and his 4.93 FIP" data-scaytid="13">FIP clearly showed that more seasoning in the upper minors is in order. However, Chatwood lacks both the stuff and the in-zone command to miss many bats, so his ceiling—even if all goes right—is just sticking toward the back of a rotation.

The Angels' ballpark enables them to turn garden-variety prospects and past-their-prime veterans into serviceable No. 4 or No. 5 starters. With Peter Bourjos and Mike Trout manning the outfield, fly balls are almost as fruitful for pitchers as swings and misses. So, while losing five years of Chatwood isn't ideal, DiPoto should have no trouble replacing him with a veteran for at most a short-term deal worth $3-4 million annually. The upgrade from Jeff Mathis to Iannetta makes that extra cost worthwhile.

That's not to say the Rockies were fleeced, however. Colorado immediately signed Ramon Hernandez to a bargain two-year, $6.4 million deal that he should have no trouble outplaying. Though durability is becoming a problem for Hernandez, he's more than capable of holding down the fort until top prospect Wilin Rosario is ready to handle the job.

Coors Field is not an ideal landing spot for a contact pitcher like Chatwood, but being in the NL should help offset the change in ballparks. He also induces enough ground balls to be effective if he can keep the ball down.

With most trades, it's easy to predict a winner and loser. The Napoli-for-Vernon Wells swap took that to an absurd extreme. This deal is on the opposite end of the spectrum—it seems as sure to end up a win-win as any I can remember.

Daniel Rathman is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Daniel's other articles. You can contact Daniel by clicking here

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<< Previous Article
The Lineup Card: BP Ho... (11/30)
<< Previous Column
The BP First Take: Wed... (11/30)
Next Column >>
The BP First Take: Fri... (12/02)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Prospects Will Break Y... (12/01)

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