Texas Rangers Offseason Guide: Catcher


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The Texas Rangers offseason is finally here. A season in which many called the worst season ever has finally come to a close. A season marred by injuries, scandals, and disappointment can haunt you no longer.

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Now the offseason is here.

Let’s dig in.

This is the first in a series of “Offseason Guide” articles focusing on different aspects of the Texas Rangers offseason, which promises to be more exciting than a Dallas Cowboys 4th quarter.

First let’s look at the 2014 catching breakdown: Robinson Chirinos (88 games started), J.P. Arencibia (21 GS), Chris Giminez (26 GS), Tomas Telis (17 GS), Geovany Soto (10 GS)

So who are the catching options for 2015? … Glad you asked.

Option #1: Robinson Chirinos, age 30, Texas Rangers

2014 stats

  • .239/.290/.415
  • 13 HRs, 40 RBIs, 71 Ks, 17 BBs
  • 40% caught stealing
  • 3 WAR

2015 salary: pre-arbitration eligible (approximately $500,000)

Robinson Chirinos is the clear-cut favorite to be your starting catcher on Opening Day 2015. Making leaps and bounds in his development as a hitter, Chirinos also flashed a Pudge-like arm throughout the 2014 season. Chirinos, a former infielder and Rays prospect, finally rewarded the Rangers after multiple fruitless attempts to coax Chirinos out of Tampa. Chirinos received high praise for his work with the pitching staff and credited much of his development to extra practice with first base coach and former Rangers catcher Bengie Molina. You can take this to the bank: Robinson Chirinos will be one of your two catchers in 2015. With the blast furnace also known as Arlington, Texas baking catchers to a crisp, two competent and reliable catchers are necessary to keep players fresh behind the dish.

Option #2: Tomas Telis, age 23, Texas Rangers

2014 stats

  • .250/.270/.279
  • 0 HRs, 8 RBIs, 10 Ks, 1 BB
  • 6% caught stealing
  • 0 WAR

2015 salary: pre-arbitration eligible (approximately $500,000)

Tomas Telis earned a promotion to the big leagues seconds after Jon Daniels pushed the eject button on Geovany Soto, jettisoning him behind enemy lines to Oakland. Telis, in a brief cup of coffee stint in September, earned a reputation as a free-swinger with little-to-no patience at the plate. Despite the hacking, it was clear to most that Telis was an above-average hitting catcher with some fine-tuning left to do rather than a swing overhaul. In 2015, Telis is better suited for a depth role, playing regularly in AAA rather than a part-time role in the big leagues. However, Jon Daniels could decide to put a bat in Telis’ hands, slap him on the back, and say go get ‘em. That’s the magic of the offseason.

Option #3: Russell Martin, age 31, Pittsburgh Pirates

2014 stats

  • .290/.402/.430 (111 GP)
  • 11 HRs, 67 RBIs, 78 SOs, 59 BBs
  • 39% caught stealing
  • 4 WAR

2015 salary: free agent (estimated $8-10 million per season)

Russell Martin is everything you want in a catcher: dangerous bat, steady power, good caught stealing percentage, a proven leader, and postseason experienced. There are two negatives: age and price. Martin is coming off his age 31 season as a catcher, a notoriously hard life as a human backstop. By this time in an average catcher’s career, their knees screech, their fingers bend in odd ways, and they’ve taken a few baseballs too many to the facemask. However, Martin bucked the trend this year, posting respectable stats and leading his team to the postseason. At $8-10 million per season, Martin carries a hefty price tag for an aging catcher. On a 3 year/$30 million contract, Martin would likely be relegated to at least part-time DH duty in his later years, a problem given the potential need for Adrian Beltre, Prince Fielder, and Shin-Soo Choo to DH on occasion to rest their decrepit (by baseball standards) joints. If Jon Daniels aims to keep payroll around $130 million (2014’s payroll) then Martin would be a tough squeeze. Given the pricey, aging veterans the Rangers already have on the books, I don’t see Daniels signing Martin up longterm.

Option #4: Geovany Soto, age 31, Oakland Athletics

2014 stats

  • .250/.2302/.363 (24 GP)
  • 1 HR, 11 RBIs, 19 Ks, 6 BBs
  • 43% caught stealing
  • 2 WAR

2015 salary: free agent (estimated $3-4 million per season)

You know what you get with Geovany Soto – that is exactly why Jon Daniels would re-sign Soto only weeks removed from shipping him away. Soto knows the pitching staff, knows the coaches, and serves as a suitable part-time catcher. If you are expecting Soto to be the hero, you will be disappointed. If Soto is re-signed, it will be solely as a stopgap measure until Jorge Alfaro is ready to contribute. Hey, speaking of…

Option #5: Jorge Alfaro, age 21, minor leagues

2014 stats (100 GP with Myrtle Beach Pelicans, 21 GP with Frisco RoughRiders)

  • .261/.323/.440
  • 17 HRs, 87 RBIs, 123 Ks, 29 BBs
  • 38% caught stealing

2015 salary: minor league contract

Jorge Alfaro is the long-shot option, a 21 year-old catching phenom who earned a midseason promotion to Frisco and thrived in his short stint. The Rangers have a history of promoting top prospects directly from Frisco, bypassing AAA Round Rock altogether: Elvis Andrus, Nick Martinez, and Rougned Odor for example. However, catching is a different beast. Catching requires a sharp mind and high baseball IQ to go along with the ability to call every pitch of a major league baseball game over a six-month period. Major league catching is grueling and often forces the fizzle of many top catching prospects (looking at you, Teagarden). So, yes, Alfaro making the 25-man roster out of Spring Training is a longshot. But as Vince Vaughn so eloquently proclaimed in The Internship: “Sometimes the longshots pay off the biggest.”

So, which two are you picking?