Earlier this offseason the Pittsburgh Pirates were connected to catcher Robinson Chirinos. It looks like they have missed out on another free agent catcher.
Entering the Winter Meetings it was made known that the Pittsburgh Pirates were seeking to upgrade their depth behind the plate. Outside of Jacob Stallings, the team did not get much of anything from their catchers. Furthermore, the team let go of Elias Diaz at the beginning of December.
When the Winter Meetings started there were a few candidates that seemed like logical fits for the team. The first was Jason Castro, who played in Minnesota where new manager Derek Shelton assisted last season. Castro, a left-handed hitter, would have made a solid platoon mate with Stallings. Just last week, Castro signed a contract with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on a one-year, $6,850,000 deal.
Now the team has missed out on another catcher that could have made sense and one who they were actually connected too. During the Winter Meetings, it was reported that the Pirates had a meeting in place with free agent catcher Robinson Chirinos. However, there was no follow up on how the meeting went.
In 2019 Chirinos played for the Houston Astros on a one-year deal, posting a .790 OPS while slugging 17 home runs. While those are really solid numbers for a catcher, Chirinos’ age was going to hold him back on the free agent market with 2020 being his age 36 season. This would have been a really good for the Pirates, a short-term contract with a low financial cost and someone who could split time with Stallings.
Last week it was reported that Chirinos was closing in on making a decision on his offers. The Pirates are not the team he picked. Instead, he will be heading back to the Texas Rangers, where he spent time before joining Houston last year. The deal is a one-year deal with an option for 2021. He is guaranteed to make $5.75 million but can make another million if his option is not picked up. His option is worth $6.75 million for 2021.
If one were to guess, the option is likely what gave the Rangers an advantage. The Bucs would have likely been looking to bring in the power-hitting backstop on a one year deal given his age. A team like the Rangers, who are a much bigger market, have the payroll flexibility to give a guaranteed payout of some sort for a player heading into their late 30s.
This leaves Russell Martin and Jonathan Lucroy as the top remaining free agent catchers. As many baseball fans know, both Martin and Lucroy are beyond their best years. Still, with Luke Maile representing the second-best option, the Pirates should at least consider one of the two. If not, the Pittsburgh pirates may need to find a trade partner to get a catcher who can pair with Stallings and make an impact.