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Iannetta remains one who got away from Sox

05.22.10 at 11:10 am ET
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The Red Sox have always been bullish on catcher Chris Iannetta.

In 2004, Jason McLeod (then the team’s director of scouting administration) saw the catcher excel in the ACC Tournament. Iannetta impressed with his work behind the plate, and further research offered further cause for interest. He had thrown out 24-of-48 attempted base stealers that year and picked off nine runners. He had a great catcher’s build. In interviews, his makeup and leadership became apparent. Moreover, the Providence, R.I., native was a huge Sox fan.

The Sox liked him, but the team hadn’t scouted him as thoroughly as it would have wanted over the course of his junior season. Though he had hit .336/.438/.598/1.036 with 15 homers that year, when draft day came, there were questions about how he would hit at the professional level.

“We just undervalued him that year,” recalled one team source.

The Sox thought that Iannetta might be available when they drafted in the fourth round, and the team had made it a priority to pump college pitching into the system. And so, when they drafted in the third round, the Sox drafted Andrew Dobies out of the University of Virginia. The Rockies jumped on Iannetta with the ninth pick of the fourth round, 16 picks before the Sox might have selected him.

Dobies never pitched above Double-A for the Sox before being shipped off to the White Sox for cash or a player to be named earlier this year. Iannetta, meanwhile, reached the majors two years after being drafted, and in 2008, emerged as one of the more promising catchers in the game, hitting .264/.390/.505/.895 with 18 homers in 407 plate appearances while contributing solid defense in Colorado. At times, particularly during that outstanding run, members of the Sox front office would kick themselves for not having taken Iannetta, viewing him as one who got away.

Last year, his offensive numbers took a hit. Though he still had a well-above average OBP (.344) and OPS (.804) for a catcher, his average fell to .228. Still, the Rockies signed him during the offseason to a three-year, $8.25 million deal that included a team option for the 2013 season.

That made it rather surprising to see Colorado demote the catcher to Triple-A after Iannetta got off to a slow start in 2010. In just eight games, he hit .133/.235/.333/.569, resulting in a demotion. The 27-year-old has been raking in Colorado Springs, hitting .350/.452/.717/1.169.

The Denver Post reported on Friday that the Sox had been monitoring Iannetta in Colorado Springs to see if the Rockies might be available. That said, the team’s need for (or ability to use) a catcher acquired in a trade is currently limited.

The Sox have seen an improvement in recent weeks in the ability of their catchers (and pitchers) to control the running game. Moreover, the resurgence of David Ortiz as the designated hitter means that the option of making Victor Martinez the regular DH would not make sense at this juncture, as noted by NESN analyst Peter Gammons during his interview on The Big Show on Friday.

“They tried to get him two years ago. They have been looking at him, but I think now that Ortiz is hitting, I think it lessens their need for him. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if they went out and got him at the end of the year,” said Gammons. “But I just don’t know right now if they could expend what Colorado would want to get him.

“Colorado really needs pitching depth because they have four guys on the disabled list. But Chris is a much better player than what he has done this year. It’s really a shame. The Red Sox do really love him. If they can get him cheap, maybe they find a way, they bring him here and have Victor be catcher, DH, first base, everything, and you just find a way to gerrymander the whole roster.”

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