Rockies acquire Morales from Twins

Rockies acquire Morales from Twins

DENVER -- The Rockies acquired backup catcher Jose Morales from the Twins on Thursday for Minor League left-handed pitcher Paul Bargas. Morales will be the primary backup to Chris Iannetta in Colorado.

Morales, who turns 28 on Feb. 20, has hit .297 in 74 Major League games over three seasons for the Twins, who have star Joe Mauer as their regular catcher and Drew Butera as his primary backup.

In 2009, Morales received 119 at-bats in 54 games and hit .311 with a .381 on-base percentage, seven RBIs and six doubles. Last season, the switch-hitting Morales began the year on the disabled list, recovering from surgery on his right wrist. he spent most of the year at Triple-A Rochester, where he batted .264 with 19 doubles, three home runs and 25 RBIs in 73 games. In the Majors, he had 36 at-bats in 19 games and hit .194 with seven RBIs.

Morales is out of Minor League options and can not be demoted without first being exposed to waivers.

The Rockies looked at veterans such as Ronny Paulino, who signed with the Mets, and Russell Martin, who joined the Yankees on Thursday. However, the Rockies' interest was to establish a clear backup for Iannetta, whom the club hopes will establish himself as a solid starting catcher.

Iannetta, a former Rockies fourth-round pick who turns 28 on April 8, showed potential in 2008, when he batted .264 with 18 home runs and 65 RBIs in 104 games. Since then, however, he has hit only .216 in 154 games. He has shown power in the last two years, as evidenced by his 25 home runs. But his long slumps allowed Yorvit Torrealba in '09 and Miguel Olivo in '10 to take the starting job.

Now the Rockies vow to see exactly what they have in Iannetta, who signed a three-year, $8.35 million contract before last season.

After the season, the Rockies traded Olivo to the Blue Jays, who let him go. Olivo agreed to a two-year, $7.5 million contract with the Mariners during the Winter Meetings.

By acquiring Morales, the Rockies also bought time for a deep group of catching prospects.

Before Morales arrived, Michael McKenry, who hit .265 in 99 games at Triple-A Colorado Springs and had eight at-bats in six Major League games, was in line for backup duty.

Wilin Rosario, who turns 22 on Feb. 23, was playing well at Double-A Tulsa -- .285 with 19 homers and 52 RBIs -- and had appeared in the Futures Game during All-Star Weekend before suffering a season-ending knee injury. After reconstructive surgery, Rosario is expected to be ready to play early in Spring Training, but the Rockies don't want to pressure him to move quickly.

The Rockies also have Jordan Pacheco, who turns 25 on Jan. 30. Pacheco is coming off a head-turning offensive season in which he hit a combined .323 at Class A Modesto and Tulsa, and he followed that up with a .317 season in the Arizona Fall League.

The Rockies have also signed former Cardinals backstop Matt Pagnozzi for depth.

Bargas, 22, a 13th-round pick out of Cal-Riverside in 2009, went 5-4 with a 3.59 ERA in 58 relief appearances at Class A Asheville last season.

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.