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Breaking Down Chris Iannetta’s Extension: Part One

October 6th, 2012

On Friday, the Angels extended Chris Iannetta, giving him a three-year deal worth $15.5 million. Iannetta and the Angels had a mutual option for 2013, and his return was somewhat a mystery. This might spell the end of Hank Conger’s days as the club’s future catcher, and we might see him used in a trade at some point this winter.

Iannetta will make an average of about $5.2 million over the next three seasons. For this article we’re going to look at the entire crop of catchers, and try to find a fair number for Iannetta. If that number is less than $5.2, yay Iannetta. If it’s more, yay Angels.

So let’s look at the top catchers from this season. Baseball Prospectus has the best breakdown of salaries, and since I can’t make a compelling argument for or against any one type of win-value metric over another, let’s use BP’s WARP.

25 catchers recorded at least 0.5 WARP in 2012. Teams paid just north of $96 million for just over 58 WARP, on average $1.66 million per win. The catchers averaged about 2.4 WARP per 120 games played (a fair number of games to expect for a catcher to play), but it was a pretty volatile group (standard deviation of 1.2 wins). Iannetta played in 79 games this season and accumulated 1.2 WARP–which comes out to about 1.8 WARP per 120 games played. That’s not bad, but was it worth $5 million?

Well, if we look at the players who made over $5 million, we get a list of only seven players: Yadier Molina, Miguel Montero, Joe Mauer, AJ Pierzynski, Mike Napoli, Russell Martin, and Brian McCann. Those players average 2.5 WARP per 120, but made significantly more than the baseline of $5 million. In fact, those players averaged over $10 million in salary!

So, if Iannetta were to be paid at a rate relative to the production of the top seven, and continued to average 1.8 WARP per 120, he’d make about $7.25 million.

This doesn’t necessarily mean the Angels got a bargain in this deal. Joe Mauer is one of the outliers among the top seven paid catchers, cashing in at $23 million this season. If we remove Mauer from the sample, we could exect Iannetta to make about $5.7 million.

Iannetta has never played in 120 games in a given season. His career high is 112 games in 2011. Part of this can be attributed to how he’s been used, but there’s also a significant part that can be attributed to injuries.

Ultimately, this deal doesn’t allow us to conclude a whole lot. It isn’t a huge deal, and it isn’t a long-term deal. The Angels’ options outside of Iannetta aren’t plentiful, and the club is clearly comfortable with Iannetta’s ability to handle the pitching staff, a part of the game that we can’t quantify. There isn’t a clear winner here; both teams got what could be a very fair deal when we look back in three years.

In the next piece, we’ll look at Iannetta’s upside and look to project his career’s path over the next several seasons.



  • Jon Jonzz says on: October 7, 2012 at 1:50 pm


    Assuming Ianetta catches a little over half the games the Angels would do well to have a decent backup/co-starter on the roster. I’d rather take my chances with Conger in that role than Wilson or Hester.

    • Hudson Belinsky says on: October 7, 2012 at 3:34 pm


      I’m not sure yet. I think Conger has enough value to be a significant trade chip, but I haven’t done enough research on him yet. Should have a more in-depth piece projecting the catchers’ performances up in the beginning of the week.

      • Jon Jonzz says on: October 7, 2012 at 3:58 pm


        It may be true that he’d get something on the market. But is his value so depressed by his inability to even make back-up status on the team such that he may be worth more by keeping (and playing) him? If nothing else, his value could be raised by trying this for a season. If not, how could he be much worse than offensively than Wilson or defensively than Hester? Just wondering. He must be pretty cost effective.

  • Bill Helm says on: October 8, 2012 at 4:29 pm


    Good signing by the Angels, though I think the Angels need to keep Conger as a possible catcher of the future, at least as Iannetta’s backup. Since Iannetta will not likely be confused with baseball’s more durable players, Conger has definite value.

  • Dean Chaban says on: October 11, 2012 at 6:16 pm


    Like Ianetta as he seemed to come on in clutch situations late in the season, but really hope that Conger can become what we all want him to be.

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