Iannetta, Rox agree to three-year deal
Catcher out to win 2010 starting job, reward Rockies' faith
DENVER -- Rockies catcher Chris Iannetta's memories of a rough offensive season in 2009 were positive.
Iannetta hit .417 with two home runs in six September games. Five were starts. In the other game, his 11th-inning, pinch-hit home run gave the Rockies an important 7-5 victory over the Brewers on Sept. 29.
"The season didn't really go the way I wanted it to, but in the little bit of time I got in September, I could see a lot of the work was beginning to pay off," Iannetta said.
The Rockies and Iannetta are banking on it. The catcher confirmed Friday that he has agreed to a three-year, $8.3 million contract that includes a $5 million club option for 2013 and escalators based on playing time. The club also continues to work on multiyear deals for right-handed closer Huston Street and second baseman Clint Barmes.
It's a show of faith after Iannetta hit .228 and lost the starting catching job to Yorvit Torrealba down the stretch. But Iannetta hit 16 home runs and drove in 52 runs in 289 at-bats, and in less than four seasons has grabbed franchise career marks for catchers with home runs (40) and RBIs (154).
If the Rockies are correct about Iannetta, who turns 27 on April 8, they'll have a valuable, low-in-the-order power hitter. Iannetta also has a healthy .361 career on-base percentage. Hitting for average consistently is his next step if he is to reach the potential the Rox detected when they selected him in the fourth round out of North Carolina in the 2004 First-Year Player Draft.
"Hitting for power is something I know I can do and have done," said Iannetta, who is at home in Providence, R.I., and working out with his longtime hitting and catching instructor, John Mello. "I just need to do something more with the ball that I mishit, maybe turn those into line drives. I need to go the other way with line drives. It's something I used to do but kind of got a way from."
Iannetta's playing time lessened in the season's final months under manager Jim Tracy, who replaced Clint Hurdle earlier in the season. However, Iannetta counts Tracy among his biggest supporters.
"I felt he was behind me at all times," Iannetta said. "Even when I wasn't playing, he'd come and talk to me about hitting and catching. And he talked to Yorvit and me, so we both understood what was going on at all times. I understood totally. Yes, I want to play and I want to win, and I wasn't the best guy."
The Rockies are still trying to re-sign Torrealba, a free agent. As of Friday morning, both sides said they have not bridged a gap in negotiations of a two-year deal -- the Denver Post reported Torrealba is seeking $6 million total and the Rockies have offered $5.6 million. If the Rockies don't sign him, the club has acknowledged it will make a two-year offer to Miguel Olivo and could go to a one-year deal with an optional second year for Josh Bard.
Realizing he's not being handed a starting job, Iannetta is out to show that the Rockies are correct in believing he can earn one.
"I didn't expect to get to sign a multiyear contract because I was disappointed in how I played last year," Iannetta said. "They showed a lot of faith in me to let me go and play for the next few years without letting arbitration creep into it. I'm every excited to be here. I like what the Rockies have going, and I want to be a part of it."
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.