As the day that pitchers and catchers report to major league camps draws closer, the Yankees spent Monday acquiring ... a pitcher and a catcher. GM Brian Cashman seems to have successfully scrambled to complete this assignment at the last minute like a senior half-assing his thesis on a 36-hour coffee binge.
The Yankees unofficially came to terms with Justin Wilson earlier on Monday, and as midnight drew closer, Ken Rosenthal reported that catcher Robinson Chirinos would be coming aboard as well. Unlike Wilson, this will be a minor league contract with no guarantees attached. Jon Heyman later noted the specific contract details:
Robinson Chirinos Yankees deal: $1M base, 500k incentives, multiple outs— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) February 16, 2021
Chirinos will turn 37 in June, and he is on the downswing of his career. It was unlikely that it would last this long anyway, as he had only played in 68 MLB games before turning 30, but he turned in a pretty good stretch between 2014-19 with the Rangers and Astros, batting .235/.331/.445 with a 104 OPS+ and 84 homers (averaging 17 per season in the final three years).
In 2020, Chirinos returned to the Rangers and was traded to the Mets midseason. In total, his 26-game stint with the two teams was awful. His production at the plate fell to .162/.232/.243 with a 31 OPS+ and just one dinger. Even in his prime, Chirinos’s pitch framing was never anything to write home about (though his arm behind the plate is decent with a 28 percent career caught-stealing rate), so that’s one of the main reasons that he’s settling for a minor league deal with the Yankees.
The main reason Chirinos was signed is that Erik Kratz isn’t around anymore. The only other catcher with experience above Double-A in the organization is Rob Brantly, and he’s 31 with just two MLB games under his belt since the end of 2017. The Yankees probably have Chirinos in mind for the third-string role in 2021 unless injury strikes Gary Sánchez or Kyle Higashioka in spring training. I don’t know if he’d be willing to play regularly in Triple-A if both are healthy, or if he’d want to try his luck elsewhere at the end of camp, but that’s a problem for late March. They’ll cross that bridge when they get to it.