By agreeing to signal Robinson Chirinos, the Astros seem set at catcher for subsequent season. For higher or worse.
The Astros used 4 catchers final season en path to a 103-win season: Max Stassi, Brian McCann, Martin Maldonado, and Tim Federowicz. Of these 4, solely Stassi stays on the Astros’ energetic roster in the present day. To say that Houston had a necessity at catcher was considerably of an understatement. This offseason, by coincidence, has an abundance of catchers accessible, led by the Marlins trying to commerce All-Star J.T. Realmuto. Different choices in free company included established veterans, corresponding to Yasmani Grandal and Wilson Ramos. As an alternative the Astros selected to signal Chirinos to a one-year, $5.75 million contract.
In case you didn’t already know, Chirinos spent the vast majority of his profession with the Rangers. He completed final season with 18 residence runs and a 103 wRC+ via 426 plate appearances, which are literally respectable offensive numbers for a catcher. Solely 17 catchers with a minimum of 100 plate appearances completed with an 100 wRC+ or increased. For the document, an hitter with a 100 wRC+ is taken into account league common. In different phrases, Chirinos was three % higher than a league common hitter.
By the offensive numbers alone, one can see why the Astros have been within the free-agent catcher. As Jeff Sullivan of FanGraphs famous right here, Chirinos prefers to drag the ball when it’s hit into the air. He’s additionally a right-handed hitter and Minute Maid Park has the Crawford Containers in left subject. The age-34 catcher has hit 25 residence runs over the previous two seasons, so the Astros might have hopes that Chirinos can reap the benefits of the Crawford Containers since he’s pull-happy.
Nonetheless, Chirinos isn’t precisely identified for his defensive prowess as he graded as one of many worst pitch framers final season by Baseball Prospectus. To be truthful although he did grade as a greater pitch framer in 2017. However Chirinos additionally caught a runner stealing solely six occasions whereas permitting 53 stolen bases. That’s not good. There isn’t a professional solution to quantify how a catcher handles a pitching employees, however a minimum of Chirinos seems as a well-respected veteran.
So, why did the Astros signal Chirinos? That’s the $5.75 million query.
For one, Chirinos is a possible offensive improve over Max Stassi and the one different catcher on Houston’s 40-man roster, Garrett Stubbs. The Astros solely obtained 19 residence runs from their catchers in 2018, so it’s cheap to imagine that common supervisor Jeff Luhnow noticed an offensive improve at an honest worth. Concerning his protection, the Astros might even see one thing in Chirinos that we don’t proper now. It is a membership that has helped reinvent gamers previously.
That stated, Stassi was one of many higher pitch framers in baseball final season. He was additionally having a robust first half as a hitter (121 wRC+) earlier than falling off in a serious means in the course of the season’s second half (45 wRC+). If Stassi have been to maintain his hitting constant all season lengthy, the Astros would have actual worth proper there. Taking away at-bats might show detrimental.
Personally, I imagine the Astros are saving their assets for different positions of want, corresponding to one other beginning pitcher or outfielder. In the event that they did determine to commerce for Realmuto, for instance, then I don’t foresee the entrance workplace wanting to spend so much of prospect capital in different areas. Houston can also view Stassi and Stubbs because the catchers of the long run beginning in 2020, therefore the one-year deal for Chirinos. However a catcher like Realmuto doesn’t come alongside typically, so I’m curious to see if the Astros select to deal with the place once more this offseason.
On the finish of the day, Chirinos is an efficient addition to Houston’s catching corps, at the same time as useful depth. I’m nonetheless considerably involved in regards to the state of the membership’s long-term plan at catcher, however the reasoning is comprehensible. Do I agree with it? Not wholeheartedly, though I do prefer it to an extent. The principle query, and concern, I’ve now could be whether or not Chirinos or Stassi will find yourself because the starter in 2019.