PHOENIX -- The D-backs gave their catching corps a boost Wednesday by signing free-agent backstop Alex Avila to a two-year, $8.25 million contract.The 31-year-old Avila began last season with the Tigers before being traded to the Cubs just prior to the non-waiver Trade Deadline. He slashed a combined .264/.387/.447."Looking to
PHOENIX -- The D-backs gave their catching corps a boost Wednesday by signing free-agent backstop Alex Avila to a two-year, $8.25 million contract.
The 31-year-old Avila began last season with the Tigers before being traded to the Cubs just prior to the non-waiver Trade Deadline. He slashed a combined .264/.387/.447.
"Looking to find a way to shore up some of our catching situations was certainly something we were looking at," D-backs general manager Mike Hazen said. "Alex obviously represents a lot of what we value back there, his leadership, what he's done in his career, how he runs a game, obviously being a left-handed hitter with power -- those types of things were things we were attracted to, certainly."
The D-backs last year used a three-man rotation of Jeff Mathis, Chris Iannetta and Chris Herrmann behind the plate. Iannetta, the best hitter of the bunch, was lost earlier this offseason to free agency.
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Avila will take his place and John Ryan Murphy will also compete for a spot behind the plate.
"Doesn't really bother me," Avila said of the shared time. "The last couple of years it's not like I've been playing 120-140 games. I think last year I played something like 100-something games. I think teams are starting to kind of go with that as far as the catching position, rotating it between two or three guys in order to get the most production and keep guys healthy."
There is little question about the offense that Avila brings to the table. Among the 334 batters who put at least 150 balls in play last year, he was fifth in hard-hit rate (95-plus mph) at 47.7 percent. Only Aaron Judge, Joey Gallo, Khris Davis and J.D. Martinez ranked ahead of him.
Defensively he did not grade out as well, according to advanced metrics where he was toward the bottom when it came to pitch framing.
"He's got good hands back there," Hazen said. "He works at it. It can be a matter of how he positions himself back there. All of those things we're going to look at and work at. The makeup and work ethic back there and really focusing in on the defensive side of the ball, that's why we feel he's going to be pretty good at it."
The signing of Avila puts the D-backs' payroll for next season above the $120 million mark, easily a club record.
Following a National League Wild Card berth last year, though, D-backs ownership was willing to stretch in order to take advantage of the opportunity to win again.
"There was always some flexibility to go after players that we felt like were going to help contribute to a winner," Hazen said. "We tried to do that. I think it's another reflection of the support we get from ownership and the desire to win and add players of a quality like Alex. It's something we're very appreciative of."
When deciding on whether to accept the D-backs' offer, Avila talked to free-agent outfielder Martinez, who played with Avila in Detroit last year before being traded to Arizona.
"He had all great things to say about the city, living there, the team, the staff," Avila said. "The one thing that really stood out to me that he said was these guys are ready, they are hungry, they want to win. Everything he said kind of checked off my boxes and got me excited about the opportunity."
Steve Gilbert has covered the D-backs for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB.