With the debut of Adley Rutschman creeping ever closer, the Orioles were in need of a second catcher not only to lighten his workload but also to be a mentor. The club seems to have found their man in Robinson Chirinos, as the front office announced on Monday that Baltimore has signed him to a one-year deal.
Chirinos, 37, most recently played for the Chicago Cubs in a backup role and was relatively productive. A midseason signee in 2021, Chirinos slashed .227/.324/.454, with five home runs. While last season was a small sample size, he has a track record of being an above average major league hitter. A career .231 hitter, the longtime Rangers backstop has a career OPS+ of 100, with five seasons over 104.
Chirinos’s best season in recent years came as an Astro in 2019. His career high 3.9 bWAR ranked seventh on a Houston squad that went to the World Series. His batting average (.238) and on-base percentage (.347) were both the second highest of his career, and his 7.7% barrel percentage was a full point above league average.
Chirinos’s defense should not be overlooked either.
The Orioles have struggled defensively at the position in recent years, with 13 passed balls and 88 wild pitches last season alone. Any pitcher needs confidence that their catcher can bail them out from time to time, as they can help keep runners off-base and out of scoring position. Such confidence that was clearly not there with Pedro Severino manning the position last year.
While not incredible, Chirinos allowed only four passed balls and 12 wild pitches across 190.2 innings with the Cubs in 2021. He also spent another 80 innings in AAA with the Yankees and did not allow any passed balls. In the aforementioned 2019 season, Chirinos had similar production (4 passed balls), but he did so in nearly 1,000 innings behind the dish.
His time working with pitchers the likes of Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole will surely be a help to the Orioles’ young arms, hopefully allowing for a seamless transition from the high minor leagues to MLB. Both pitchers had earned run averages under 2.60 in 2019, and no Astros starter had an ERA over 4.15. With the game’s top pitching prospect in Grayson Rodriguez inching toward his call-up, the O’s will hope to replicate this level of success.
This upcoming season will mark Chirinos’s eleventh in the bigs. His 602 games at catcher rank 17th among active players, making him the perfect, low-risk high-reward option for Baltimore. He may not be in Baltimore beyond this season, but his potential impact can set the team up for years of prosperity.
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