D-backs sign catcher Alex Avila to 2-year deal
PHOENIX – The Arizona Diamondbacks have finalized an $8.25 million, two-year contract with free agent catcher Alex Avila.
Avila fills a roster spot vacated by Chris Iannetta, who shared the catching duties last year and left for an $8.5 million, two-year deal with Colorado.
Last season, Avila hit .264 with 14 home runs and 49 RBI in 376 plate appearances with the Detroit Tigers and Chicago Cubs. He started 70 games at catcher and 11 at first base. His .387 on-base percentage was second only to Buster Posey among catchers with at least 300 plate appearances, and his .447 slugging percentage was the second-best of his career. He is a .243 hitter in nine major league seasons.
Avila, speaking in a conference call Wednesday evening, said the deal came together over the last two weeks, and he likes the makeup of the team he is joining.
“Essentially the first thing that popped into mind was how talented of a team they had,” Avila said.
Avila joins Jeff Mathis and Chris Herrmann as the Diamondbacks’ catchers.
Arizona opened a roster spot by designating outfielder Rey Fuentes for assignment Wednesday.
Avila said he has no problem sharing the catching duties.
“It doesn’t really bother me,” Avila said. “It’s not like I’ve been playing 120-140 games the last few years. Teams are starting to kind of go with that as far as the catching position, kind of rotating it through two or three guys.
“One thing that (manager) Torey (Lovullo) won’t get from me is complaining about playing time,” Avila said. “That’s just not who I am.”
General manager Mike Hazen noted that Avila gives Arizona a left-handed bat off the bench when Mathis or someone else is catching.
Avila got a deal very similar to what Iannetta got from the Rockies. Hazen said Iannetta signed before Arizona had decided on a direction for the position for 2018.
Hazen said the Diamondbacks are confident in Avila’s defensive abilities but may try to work with him on certain aspects in spring training.
Hazen praised Avila for “the type of leader, teammate, presence he has in the clubhouse, behind the plate.”
Avila ranks low on some of the defensive metrics, but he doesn’t think much of those analyses.
“It’s gotten a little bit overblown,” he said.
Avila said he talked to former Tigers teammate J.D. Martinez about the Diamondbacks. The slugger had great success in Arizona after being sent there just before last year’s trade deadline.
“He had great things to say about the city, living there, the team, the staff,” Avila said. “He enjoyed his time. He loved it.”
He said Martinez told him “Alex, these guys are hungry. They want to win.”
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