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Angels ink Iannetta to three-year extension

ANAHEIM -- The 2013 mutual option on Chris Iannetta's contract, it turns out, was just a formality. The intent, for about a month, but really since Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto plucked him from Colorado last November, was to have Iannetta behind the plate long term.

On Friday, the two sides officially agreed, by way of a three-year, $15.55 million extension that will make Iannetta the Angels' starting catcher through 2015.

"It was a no-brainer for us to move forward with Chris," Dipoto said, "because we feel like he hits on all the different traits that we value behind the plate."

It was also an easy decision for Iannetta, who early on expressed a strong interest in returning to the Angels by exercising his portion of the $5 million option, which he obtained the right to void by switching teams last offseason. By scrapping that with a new agreement, which doesn't include any no-trade protection or additional options, Iannetta delayed his free agency by at least a couple of years because he wanted to stay with the Angels.

It's a sentiment ace Jered Weaver (five-year, $85 million extension in August 2011), second baseman Howie Kendrick (four years, $33.5 million last January) and shortstop Erick Aybar (four years, $35 million deal last April) have all shared.

"I wanted to be here," Iannetta said. "I'm not a guy that's all about going out and trying to maximize a contract as much as I possibly can. I wanted a situation that's good, I wanted a situation where I feel comfortable, and this is obviously it.

"I'm glad it's for three years, just because I want to go out there and play and focus on baseball, and not worry about the contract stuff."

Dipoto's first move as Angels GM was to trade right-hander Tyler Chatwood to the Rockies on Nov. 30 for the 29-year-old Iannetta, who posted a .357 on-base percentage and built a solid reputation his previous six years in Colorado.

Right wrist surgery and a right forearm strain, which kept him out from early May to late July, didn't allow Iannetta to initially display that form with the Angels. But he did shortly thereafter, batting .260 with a .337 on-base percentage over the final two months while building good chemistry with the pitching staff, working deep counts in the No. 9 spot and starting 25 of the Angels' last 29 games.

The two sides had been working on an extension for the last month.

"Chris fits for us," said Dipoto, who still has to decide on the 2013 club options for Dan Haren and Ervin Santana, weighing that with the desire to re-sign free-agent-to-be Zack Greinke.

"What he brings to this team goes way beyond what you see in the stat sheet," Dipoto said. "Chris is the type of makeup player, the type of leader behind the plate and the type of consistent presence that we're looking for in all of our players, and quite frankly, it's a very important trait for the catcher."

Iannetta's contract further clouds the future of 24-year-old Hank Conger, who has been in the Angels' organization for seven years -- the last three in Triple-A -- and has yet to obtain a solidified role in the big leagues.

Dipoto indicated that Conger would compete for a backup job this spring, seemingly alongside Bobby Wilson and John Hester, but the Angels could use him as a trade chip to address the pitching staff this winter. That's what they did with middle infielder Jean Segura, part of the deal that brought Greinke to Anaheim in late July, after Kendrick and Aybar were signed long term.

"Hank's obviously still a member of the Angels' organization, and we believe in Hank's future, whether that means he's going to get an opportunity a little later in his career or he's going to be asked to play in more of a support role," Dipoto said. "But this is about Chris Iannetta."

Los Angeles Angels, Chris Iannetta