The Arizona Diamondbacks revamped their catching platoon last year.
Shifting from Welington Castillo, who was a productive offensive player for the Snakes, Arizona added catchers Jeff Mathis and Chris Iannetta to join Chris Herrmann behind the plate.
This offseason, Iannetta moved on to the Rockies, and Arizona addressed the vacancy by signing veteran Alex Avila on Wednesday to a two-year deal.
“Looking to find a way to sure up some of our catching situation was certainly something that we were looking at,” Diamondbacks general manager Mike Hazen said. “Alex obviously represents a lot of what we value back there as leadership. What he’s done in his career, how he runs a game, a left-handed hitter with power. Those types of things…we were attracted to certainly.”
Avila, who has played for the Tigers, White Sox and Cubs, got to see firsthand what the Diamondbacks lineup and pitching staff could do last year when the team played the Tigers and then the Cubs after Avila had been traded.
Welcome to Arizona, Alex Avila!
— Arizona Diamondbacks (@Dbacks) January 31, 2018
“You didn’t feel comfortable playing against them,” Avila said. “At times, you had no answer for the lineup and the pitching pitched really. It was a hard team to play against and they played hard and they played hungry and that was one thing that stood out to me.”
In 2017, Avila hit .264 with 14 home runs, 49 RBI and 62 walks in 112, seeing bouncing back after three straight seasons with a sub-.220 batting average. By comparison, Iannetta hit.254 with 17 home runs and 42 RBI and 37 walks in 89 contests.
He said part of that strong season was being healthy throughout, as well as one distinct change in his mental game.
“The one thing I did do on the mental side was not really care about the shift,” Avila said.
“A few years back, teams started shifting me. It was something as a hitter, you try not to let it distract you or change your game, but when you hit those balls hard to the right side that were base hits 10 years ago, there no longer base hits, it can wear on you a little bit. You change your game plan and try to manipulate your bat, and then you end up falling into bad habits. The one thing I wanted to make sure of was I didn’t want to care where they were playing me, I just wanted to focus the baseball at a certain zone in the plate and putting a good swing on it and hitting it as hard as possible.”
To make room for Avila on the roster, Rey Fuentes was designated for assignment. Hazen said the Diamondbacks will continue to look into adding to the outfield as well as the offseason draws to a close.