The fact that Chirinos, a solid catcher during his time here and a very popular guy in the clubhouse, went to the hated Astros is just a twist of the knife regarding one of the more baffling decisions the Rangers have made this offseason.
The Rangers, you may recall, held an option on Chirinos that, due to escalators, was around $4.5 million for the 2019 season. That option being picked up appeared to be a no-brainer...the Rangers didn’t have any other viable starting catchers in the system, and if anything, needed to go get a backup catcher to pair with Chirinos for 2019.
Instead, the Rangers declined the option, and opted to sign Jeff Mathis to a deal that is going to pay him $3.25 million in 2019 and $3 million in 2020. Mathis, however, is a backup at this point, one would have to assume...he started 61 games behind the plate in 2018, 56 in 2017, 36 in 2016, and hasn’t started as many as 80 games in a season since 2008. So the Rangers still need a starting catcher...unless they are going to force Isiah Kiner-Falefa, the utility infielder/catcher, into a starting catcher role, something he wouldn’t appear to be ready for.
So Texas appears to still need another catcher. And the catcher they had, who they could have picked up an option for around $4.5 million for 2019 on, signed with a division rival for $1.25 million more. Which suggests that the Rangers could have traded Chirinos, if they decided they didn’t want to keep him, had they picked up the option.
I get wanting to have Jeff Mathis, who has a great reputation for game calling and working with pitchers, here the next couple of years as guys like Taylor Hearn and Joe Palumbo break in. I get wanting Isiah Kiner-Falefa and Jose Trevino to learn from him. But I don’t get not having Chirinos here to pick up the bulk of the starts in 2019, and I don’t get mis-reading the market to the point that you decline an option on a player only to see him sign elsewhere for more money.
The front office does not come out of this looking real good.