The Toronto Blue Jays have discussed catcher Chris Iannetta with his reps, according to a Ken Rosenthal report late Tuesday night.
This conversation reportedly took place as part of a larger meeting that also covered free agent Jose Bautista.
Iannetta, 33, played in 94 games with the Seattle Mariners last season where he posted a slash line of .210 / .303 / ..329 with a .631 OPS. He’s also coming off a .628 OPS in 2015 with the Los Angeles Angels, but as recently as 2014 was a 3.0 WAR catcher with much stronger numbers across the board.
Toronto’s backup catching job remains up in the air given the departures of Dioner Navarro and Josh Thole from the 2016 roster. A.J. Jimenez is currently in place as the likeliest candidate for the job, but the 26-year-old Puerto Rican remains unproven and has battled injuries in the minor leagues.
While Iannetta has graded out negatively in Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) over the past several seasons and is not known as a strong pitch framer, he did manage to throw out 20 of 65 attempted base stealers in 2016 for a 31% success rate (league average rests around 25%).
His offensive profile does offer upside if he is able to return to his old form at the plate and provide a strong on-base tool. Iannetta’s power hasn’t completely regressed, either, and would still hold the potential to chip in a handful of home runs in limited at-bats.
The veteran has made at least 80 starts behind the plate each of the past four seasons, but given the downward trend in his performance over the last two, this off-season seems like the logical time for him to transition into more of a reserve role.
Iannetta earned $4.25 million in 2016 on a one-year free agent deal, but fell short of a vesting option for 2017 with the Mariners and then had his 2017 team option (also for $4.25 million) declined in early November.