The Mariners Monday signed free agent catcher Chris Iannetta to a one-year contract, making room on the 40-man roster by designating catcher John Hicks for assignment. The 32-year-old Iannetta hit .188 with 10 home runs and 34 RBIs in 92 games last season with the Los Angeles Angels, including 80 starts behind the plate.
“This move improves our depth at a critical position,” said GM Jerry Dipoto. “Chris provides us with a solid veteran presence behind the plate, as well as an experienced major league hitter with strong on-base skills who will lengthen our lineup.”
Dipoto’s move to bolster the club’s catching comes as little surprise. Seattle used five catchers last season, Mike Zunino, Jesus Sucre, John Hicks, Wellington Castillo and Steve Baron. They finished as the worst-hitting catching unit since 1901. Zunino, Seattle’s No. 1 pick in the 2012 amateur draft, hit .174 last year in 112 games before the club farmed him out for the rest of the year, throwing his career in doubt.
In 10 major league seasons, Iannetta hit .231 with 332 runs, 125 doubles, 10 triples, 100 home runs, 378 RBIs and a .351 on-base percentage in 852 games with Colorado (2006-11) and Los Angeles-AL (2012-15).
His .351 OBP since the start of 2006 is T3 among catchers behind San Francisco’s Buster Posey (.375), Toronto’s Russell Martin (.352) and tied with Philadelphia’s Carlos Ruiz (.351). Among catchers since 2006, his .995 fielding percentage leads the majors.
Iannetta was selected by Colorado in the fourth round of the 2004 draft out of the University of North Carolina, where he was a finalist for the Johnny Bench Award and a semifinalist for the Dick Howser Trophy.
Hicks, 26, appeared in 17 games for Seattle, hitting .063. He also appeared in 83 games with AAA Tacoma, batting .245 with six home runs and 35 RBIs. In five minor league seasons with Seattle, Hicks hit .280 with 32 home runs and 216 RBIs.