UPDATE: No deal has been formally announced by the Astros, but this confirmation was posted. No details as of yet in regards to the contract value - although it was announced to be a 1-year deal.
Free agent catcher Robinson Chirinos (@robinson28ch), who played the last 6 years with the Rangers, says he has agreed to a one-year deal with the #Astros and will be in Houston Wednesday for a physical.— Mark Berman (@MarkBermanFox26) December 4, 2018
As per MLBTradeRumors, The Astros are close to signing ex-Ranger’s catcher, Robinson Chirinos. Who obviously does not have the flash of a Realmuto, Grandal, or even Ramos. Let’s take a look at who he is.
#Astros making significant progress toward signing free-agent catcher Robinson Chirinos, sources tell The Athletic. Deal is believed to be in place, pending physical.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 4, 2018
Who is Robinson Chirinos?
Chirinos, now 34, comes in at 6’1 210lbs, who signed as a International Free Agent hailing from Venezuela. A Non-prospect throughout the minors, here was a snippet from Beyond the Box Score when he emerged onto the scene:
“Chirinos possesses an incredible throwing arm that he’s been using to mow down opposing would-be base-stealers. Even though his offense will never win any awards with a .290 wOBA, his defense more than makes up for it, accumulating a total 1.2 fWAR in 66 games (20th among catchers with more than 100 plate appearances).
Fifty-five batters have attempted to steal while Chirinos is watching and 23 of them have been caught in the dust, making for a 41.8% caught-stealing percentage, 5th among all qualified catchers this year. Among other awards, Chirinos is tied for first with four stolen base runs saved (rated between great and excellent according to FanGraphs) and tied for fifth among all catchers with five defensive runs saved.”
And a Note from John Sickels highlight on him:
“Chirinos is playing well defensively: he’s thrown out 43% of runners while making just two errors and giving up five passed balls in 69 games. He’s got 1.77 pop times to second base and his ability to shut down the running game without making many mistakes is a great asset despite non-elite performance in other aspects of catching such as pitch-framing.”
Interesting, Chirinos’ profile seems staggeringly different from what was noted in 2014. Here is the exert from the MLBTradeRumors article:
“That said, Chirinos doesn’t come with a strong defensive reputation. He’s thrown out 25 percent of opposing base thieves in his career but saw that mark fall to just 10 percent last season, and while he grades out well in terms of blocking pitches in the dirt, Baseball Prospectus has routinely graded him as a below-average framer — never more so than in 2018.”
From 2015-2018, Chirinos had the following stat line courtesy of Baseball Reference:
While I’m sure the .233 batting average has to make most people cringe, Chirinos actually has been able to maintain a solid .337 OBP and .457 SLG over that time period. His hitting has quietly been above average, with a range between 103 – 124 wRC+ since 2015.
What’s more surprising than that, is if you look at the wRC+ from 2015 to 2018, Chirinos actually comes in at 109, ranking 6th among all qualified catchers, one place ahead of … JT Realmuto.
Again, this is DEFINITELY not an argument that Chirinos is a better hitter then Realmuto, and at 34, you have to think that they’re on the opposite ends of their careers, even if you do believe that the lesser innings behind the plate help prolong Chirinos’ legs going forward.
One item of note, with his high strike-out, high walk approach, Chirinos does manage to see a large number of pitches, and is not a big GIDP threat.
Steamer has him projected at .202/.303/.387 for a 89 wRC+.
Catcher Robinson Chirinos (@robinson28ch) on being teammates now with @JoseAltuve27: "Jose and I are really good friends. He said last year he was talking about dreaming to play on the same team (with me) and it's gonna happen. I'm excited to play with him."— Mark Berman (@MarkBermanFox26) December 4, 2018
Oddly, Chirinos did not appear on Baseball-Prospectus’ pitch framing stats that I could find, but StatCorner had him ranked 8th worst (but 2 spots ahead of Realmuto) in 2018.
Catcher Robinson Chirinos (@robinson28ch) on joining the #Astros: "I talked to (@JoseAltuve27) right after Texas declined the option. He told me I want you to come here. He said I might call Jeff (Luhnow) and see if we can make it happen." pic.twitter.com/v9zWehFINS— Mark Berman (@MarkBermanFox26) December 4, 2018
At 25.3 fps, Chirinos is below average for a major leaguer, but still a significant upgrade over both the extremely sluggish McCann (22.7 fps) and Maldonado (24.1 fps).
This seems to match well with his slightly positive wGIDP (0.1) and Spd Rating (3.4)
Here is Robinson Chirinos’ spray chart from 2017-2018 overlayed on Minute Maid Field. It’s not scientific, but it’s fun.— BatFlip Crazy (@batflipcrazy) December 4, 2018
Chirinos is a strong pull hitter on hard hit FB. His 2018 HHPFB% was his lowest in two years and still ~7% better than MLB average.#FantasyBaseball #Astros pic.twitter.com/ft49E5lriK
We don’t know any of the contract terms as of yet, but considering his $4.5 Million dollar option was declined, I’d have to wager that this deal is not going to break the bank. It still seems intriguing to me the polar opposite evaluations over the past few years.
Personally, I’m not overwhelmed one way or the other about this deal, I would have to think the Astros will still pursue one of the higher end FA or trade targets, with this providing them a safety net for an MLB quality catcher. It does make me wonder where Stassi stands, but this deal could have been driven based on value for the money. One of the best aspects seems to be his relationship with Altuve and what that means for team chemistry.
We wanted to get information out quickly with the update that the Astros are close to closing the deal, but will continue to update the story as we get more information on both Chirinos and on what the signing looks like if it occurs.
Are you a fan of this (potential) signing?
This poll is closed