New York Yankees Player Profiles: Robinson Chirinos, is he a catch?

Will the New York Mets pursue Robinson Chirinos in free agency?
Oct 29, 2019; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Astros pitcher Chris Devenski (47) talks with catcher Robinson Chirinos (28) against the Washington Nationals during the ninth inning in game six of the 2019 World Series at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees have addressed the situation of having only two catchers to start the 2021 season. The retirement caused the void at the end of the last season by catcher Erik Kratz. Kratz was the backup catcher that caught Deivi Garcia’s Major League debut. If either Gary Sanchez or Kyle Higashioka were to be injured, the Yankees would have no backup catcher. To resolve that, they signed veteran catcher Robinson Chirinos.

Yankee fans know little about Chirinos, so today, I am introducing Robinson, his career, and his journey to the New York Yankees. Robinson David Chirinos Gonzalez is 36 years old and was born in Punto Fijo, Venezuela. He signed with the Chicago Cubs as a non drafted free agent in 2000. He is a 20 year veteran of the game. He made his Major League debut with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2011. He has also caught for the Houston Astros, Texas Rangers, and the New York Mets before coming to the New York Yankees.

In his first year in the majors, he hit .218/.283/.309 and only had a caught stealing record of 9%. After a concussion, he did not play in 2012. On April 8, 2013, he was traded to the Texas Rangers. With the Rangers, he was the backup catcher for A. J. Pierzynski, but only played in 13 games. But in 2014, he was the starting catcher for the Rangers; he played a career-high 93games that season, hitting .239/.290/.415, but he made 13 errors, the third-most in the American League.

In 2015 he again started for the Rangers. He batted .232/.325/.438. He came back for the ALDS against the Toronto Blue Jays and hit 3-for-11 (.273) and one home run in 3 games played in a series loss. Chirinos continued to catch for the Rangers through 2018 with similar results. On June 13, 2018, Chirinos was struck at home plate by Matt Kemp. Robinson felt the collision was intentional and started a bench-clearing brawl.   Both players were ejected from the game.

In 2018 he batted .222/.338/.419. Chirinos allowed 53 stolen bases, fourth-most for a catcher in the AL, as he caught 6 runners for a caught-stealing percentage of 10%. At the end of the season, the Rangers declined his $4.5 million option. On December 6, 2018, Chirinos signed a one-year contract with the Houston Astros. On September 1, 2019, Chirinos caught Justin Verlander’s third career no-hitter. In 2019 he batted .238/.347/.443.

After the season, he started the year with his second stint with the Rangers, but he was traded to the New York Mets in August. For the two teams in 2020, he combined for the worst batting average of his career, hitting only .162 just above Gary Sanchez’s worst season.  Now he is a non-roster catcher for the New York Yankees. After reading this, you realize that Chirinos is a pretty lousy hitter, as demonstrated by his record. There is no reason to believe he will be any better this season if used. He will only be used if Sanchez or Higashioka is injured. He can call a good game, but outside of that, he is a pretty average catcher. He does have a connection to Gerrit Cole as he was his personal catcher with the Astros.

In a surprising move by Yankee manager Aaron Boone, he has announced that Kyle Higashioka will not be Gerrit Cole’s personal catcher in 2021. He said in spring training Cole would pitch to Sanchez and Higashioka. The very nice day, Cole, in an interview, started with a mention of his former Astros teammate  Robinson Chirinos. “Let’s not forget the third catcher that we have in Robinson,” Cole said. The bottom line for the Yankees is that they have picked up an adequate catcher to fill in. How big a role he ends up playing, only the season will tell. The Yankees solved a problem without spending any money.

The photo accompanying this profile is of Chirinos with Gerrit Cole when playing together with the Houston Astros.’s Columnist William Parlee is a member of the Society for American Baseball Research. Follow me on Twitter @parleewilliam.