The Arizona Diamondbacks have reached a deal with free agent catcher Alex Avila pending a physical, according to Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports.
The exact details of the contract are not known at this time.
The 31-year-old told MLB Network Radio in November he had no problem signing as a backup catcher on a winning team.
Avila hit .264 in 112 combined games last season with the Detroit Tigers and Chicago Cubs. Avila was a backup for the Cubs after Chicago acquired him at the Trade Deadline last July.
Avila has not been the same hitter in recent seasons compared to earlier in his career, but the veteran posted an above league average OPS+ of 119 — thanks in large part to a .834 OPS, 14 home runs and a solid .387 on-base percentage — and with a very respectable 2.7 WAR. Avila made $2 million last season and when you consider that one win above replacement is considered to be worth somewhere between $8 to $11 million, he is more than a bargain for any team looking for catching depth.
The D-backs certainly were one of those teams this offseason.
After rotating three catchers — Chris Iannetta, Jeff Mathis and Chris Herrmann — depending on who pitched or needed rest, Chris Iannetta decided to sign with the Colorado Rockies as a free agent. Iannetta was the D-backs most valuable offensive catcher and his defensive value was only surpassed by Mathis. This left an obvious hole at the position for general manager Mike Hazen to fill.
Avila will help replace some of the production left by Iannetta’s departure. As an offensive catcher, Avila is the perfect replacement for Iannetta.
The D-backs were also rumored to have interest in Miami Marlins backstop J.T. Realmuto. But, Realmuto is under team control until 2021 and as a result, a trade would need to include a bevy of highly skilled prospects. Arizona has one of the weakest farm systems in baseball, so a deal for Realmuto would have been highly unlikely.
Avila was probably the next best option.
Although he is not the best defensive catcher, he was not much of a downgrade from Iannetta in the framing department, posting a Runs Above Average (RAA) of -3.2 compared to Iannetta’s 0.0 RAA. Plus, Avila is still a good game caller and his leadership behind the plate will be valued.
Avila may not be as good defensively as Iannetta was, but he will complement Mathis and John Ryan Murphy, who are both defensive first catchers, and Avila is an upgrade offensively over both.
It is never a bad idea to have a mix of offense and defense behind the plate. Now, the D-backs have both.
Stay with Baseball Essential for updates to this story.
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