Rangers' Chirinos Excited About Reunion; 'It's Really Special to be Back Home'
The Texas Rangers and Robinson Chirinos have reunited on a one-year contract, but for Chirinos, it's a special homecoming.
Chirinos was with the Rangers from 2013-2018 and was a mainstay behind the plate. As a matter of fact, if it weren't for Chirinos' consistency, the Jonathan Lucroy trade could have been even more devastating than it turned out.
To the surprise of many around the team, the Rangers decided to not pick up Chirinos' $4.5 million option for 2019. There was no prospect waiting in the wings and ready to take over or any other obvious reason why the Rangers decided to cut ties with Chirinos.
"I remember sitting with J.D. in the clubhouse," Chirinos recalled at Wednesday's press conference. "They told me they were not going to pick up my option and I was sad. This is home for me, my family is here, my kids were going to school here in the area."
Not picking up Chirinos' option didn't completely sever ties between the team and the player right away, but the Rangers were obviously a little reluctant to commit to Chirinos for the 2019 season. Despite all of that, it seemed like the two sides could possibly work something out.
Unfortunately as we all know now, they never got anything done and Chirinos signed with the team down I-45 instead.
"We looked to do something a little different last year," Jon Daniels said of signing Jeff Mathis last offseason. "In some ways it played out well, from the standpoint that Jeff developed really good relationships with some of our pitchers and some of them had great years and I think he gets a ton of credit for that."
The Rangers did enjoy two fantastic seasons from Mike Minor and Lance Lynn, both of which earned A.L. Cy Young votes in 2019. Mathis was Minor's primary catcher last season. The two paired together for 27 of Minor's 32 starts.
While Mathis succeeded in that aspect, the offensive part of his game struggled mightily. The Rangers were second-to-last in the American League in OPS from the catcher position. Defense and game-calling are crucial aspects of the battery, but it's hard to ignore a gaping hole in your lineup when you play in the American League.
The decision to decline Chirinos' option and eventually let him go elsewhere was puzzling. Jon Daniels was asked about how he re-evaluated that decision-making process.
"Before or after I made the mistake and didn't pick up his option?"
Jon Daniels also admitted he may have fallen victim to a "grass is greener" mentality and not appreciating what they had in Chirinos.
Chirinos was always thought of very highly by his teammates, coaches, and the front office during his previous six seasons as a Texas Ranger. His value, both on- and off-the-field were huge reasons why the Rangers were interested in a reunion with Chirinos.
"Obviously, we missed some of the things that Robby [Chirinos] brought too," Daniels said. "He went out and had a fantastic year, had some team and personal success and probably learned a bunch of things along with way and hopefully we'll be the beneficiaries of that."
Chirinos hit 17 home runs last season, almost doubling the Rangers' nine collective home runs from the catcher spot. Chirinos' pitch-framing numbers were also above where the Rangers were collectively.
Not to mention, Chirinos was the Astros' number one catcher in 2019. Houston went the distance this past season, but ultimately fell to the Washington Nationals in an exciting seventh game.
On-the-field success aside, Chirinos is happy to be back where his family is.
"You guys know I have my brother, my sister here in town. They're happy to have me here," Chirinos said. "As a family guy, it's really special to be back home."
Everybody makes mistakes. It's one thing to admit a mistake and move on. Not everyone gets a second chance to make amends and fix the mistake you made. Jon Daniels admitted to the mistake of letting Chirinos go after the 2018 season, yet was able to bring him back into Rangers' red, white, and blue.
"I'm glad we were able to work a deal and be able to come back home," Chirinos said. "It's an exciting time to be a Texas Ranger."