As the Minnesota Twins search for ways to upgrade their roster heading into 2019, catcher Robinson Chirinos and the Twins have been linked together.
The Minnesota Twins look to be continuing the trend from last offseason where they will likely leave no stone unturned when exploring ways in which they could improve the Twins roster for 2019. While middle infield, first base, and pitching may top the areas of needed improvement, catcher also is a position that could use some upgrading.
That makes the news from Jon Morosi that the Twins join the Atlanta Braves in interest for former Texas Rangers catcher Robinson Chirinos not exactly surprising, but interesting none the less. Looking at only his 2018 slash line we may miss Chirinos’ value but as we dig deeper there is clarity to be gained on why the Twins and Braves are at least kicking the tires on the veteran backstop.
Chirinos appeared in the most games of his career in 2018. In 113 games he slashed .222/.338/.419. Even his .757 OPS doesn’t breathe much hope into his performance at first glance, until you realize that he actually possesses a very good bat from the catching position. Which says a lot more about the ability for catchers to hit currently in the major leagues than Chirinos’ ability to hit.
Looking back at the past five seasons, Chirinos has put up some of the best offensive numbers for catchers in that time frame. Looking specifically at his .773 OPS over that time he comes in behind guys like Gary Sanchez, Buster Posey, Wilson Contreras, and Yasmani Grandal. Chirinos also finds himself just ahead of J.T. Realmuto, Devin Mesoraco, Jonathan Lucroy, and Francisco Cervelli.
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At 34-years-old the key to draw successful offensive performances out of Chirinos may be to help him remain in a part time role. Which is what he would be in if he joined the Twins. The Twins interest in Chirinos likely doesn’t change anything for Mitch Garver as the two of them would team up as the Twins backstop duo. It speaks more to potential doubt in Jason Castro‘s ability to return from the knee injury that held him out of most of the 2018 season.
Garver and Chirinos actual profile as fairly similar catchers. Both have defensive attributes that aren’t necessarily something to be celebrated, but we will continue to hold out hope that the younger Garver can still improve in this area. Both catchers will be defined by and remain major league rosters as long as they can continue to hit the ball.
Chirinos makes sense for the Twins as Castro knee insurance. Also with questions marks surrounding first base, both Chirinos and Garver have seen time at first base. So if their bats are able to help in the lineup over someone else on the roster they both come with some positional flexibility or become decent pinch hitting options. That is why it isn’t crazy for the Twins to kick the tires on Chirinos.
Calling it “not crazy” to make a move on Chirinos may be underselling. It could even become an underrated and under the radar type move that could pay off in some impactful ways.