The Cincinnati Reds were long rumored to be interested in catcher Yasmani Grandal. They were interested in signing him last offseason and it didn’t work out. He wound up signing a 1-year deal with Milwaukee and performed well with the Brewers. This offseason is only a few weeks old, but the Reds were once again linked to the catcher. And once again it wasn’t to be. Today saw Grandal sign a 4-year, $73M deal with the Chicago White Sox. To quote the great Rachel Phelps, “Cross him off, then.”

While the Reds were clearly interested in Yasmani Grandal, he’s not the only catcher that they’ve been linked to on the market – he was just their top target. The other catcher that Cincinnati has been linked to is Robinson Chirinos. The most recent link was reported by Mark Feinsand of MLB.com last night.

There are some big differences between Grandal and Chirinos. Age is a big one. Grandal will be 31 in 2020, while Chirinos will be 36. That can be both good or bad, depending on how you want to look at it. One one hand, older players typically see their production drop year over year. And at 36, that should be expected, even if you hope for the opposite. But on the other hand, that also means a longer term deal shouldn’t be expected. Grandal got four years. That probably isn’t on the table for Chirinos given that he’s 36. So from the Reds perspective, there’s lesser risk in terms of years – and probably money per year, too.

From a Cincinnati perspective, a shorter term deal on a catcher could also make plenty of sense because Tyler Stephenson could be ready to help in the Major Leagues soon, too. The third rated prospect in the organization is coming off of a good season in Double-A in 2019, played well in the Arizona Fall League following the regular season, and should head to Triple-A to start 2020.

But for now, let’s get back to Robinson Chirinos. Last season he made $5,575,000 on a 1-year deal with the Houston Astros. He played in 114 games for Houston, hitting .238/.347/.443 – good for a 105 OPS+. That’s pretty much been what he’s produced at the plate dating back to 2015. In 2019 he posted a 3.8 bWAR, but his fWAR was only 2.3. WAR for catchers can be questionable, though, because it just misses so much of what a catcher brings to the game defensively. As with all WAR – use it as a general guide, not a hardened in steel number of fact.

At the plate, Robinson Chirinos has some good and bad working with him. He has plenty of power. And he walks plenty, allowing him to get on base at a good clip. But he also swings and misses a lot. In 2018 he struck out 33% of the time. In 2019 he struck out 29% of the time.  He’s been a productive hitter overall, but he’s got some offensive flaws that could be concerning. He’s never hit for much average, and his strikeout rate has jumped up significantly over the last two seasons.

As noted above in the WAR discussion, there’s a lot of stuff going on defensively with catchers. They’ve got to call a game, adjust the plan on the fly in a game based on the pitcher and the hitter and what’s happening that day. They have to try to control the running game, and they’ve got to work on framing pitches to buy strikes for the staff. It’s not an easy gig.

We can’t assign numbers to the calling of a game – and that may not even be too much in control of the specific catcher. He’s going to be working off of a scouting report given to him by the team and have to adjust from there. And while we’ve grown to learn that more bases are stolen on pitchers than catchers, it is worth noting that since 2015, Chirinos has been below-average at throwing out runners.

Pitch framing, while always a thing in Major League Baseball, has really caught on as a thing to pay attention to in the last five years. Teams have started teaching techniques on how to improve this. Even in Cincinnati we’ve been able to see Tucker Barnhart go from one of the worse rated pitch framing catchers earlier in his career to a guy who has rated out above-average this past season.

For Robinson Chirinos, though, it’s not a strong point of his game – at least according to the framing numbers at Fangraphs. In 2019 he graded out at -5.7, which rated out as 27th in baseball. Yasmani Grandal, for example, rated 2nd in the game at 17.0. Don’t take these numbers as finite, though – there’s wiggle room within there. It’s not an exact science. That said, he has been below-average throughout his career according to the numbers, so it’s likely that he actually is below-average – it’s just a matter of how accurate the actual number assigned to him is, not as much where he falls among his counterparts.

Bringing in a catcher like Robinson Chirinos would seem to be a move made more in line to improve the offense than to improve the defense. That power and on-base ability will play. And the Reds certainly need to find ways to improve the offense. Unlike a deal with Grandal, there’s not nearly as much upside, but it also keeps Tyler Stephenson’s path to the Majors a bit more clear.

What the Reds would do with regards to their current catching situation is still unknown. Tucker Barnhart put together a strong second half of the season at the plate. And as noted, his pitch framing improved big time in 2019. Perhaps a platoon-like situation could work there. That would leave Curt Casali on the outside looking in. Kyle Farmer’s ability to play behind the plate, but also around the field nearly everywhere else would likely make him the 3rd catcher who doesn’t get used behind the dish too often. But that brings tons of value in how the catchers could be used on a daily basis. We’re getting a bit ahead of our skis with this one, though.

It seems Cincinnati’s front office is looking at catcher as one area to improve the 2020 roster. They could do worse than adding a Robinson Chirinos type of bat to an offense that struggled to score runs.

Photo of Robinson Chirinos by Keith Allison and was edited . The license can be found here.

59 Responses

  1. Tom Mitsoff

    Hopefully Chirinos is not a priority. The Reds have to prioritize the acquisition of impact bats, regardless of position, and the next impact bats in the queue are Castellanos, Ozuna and Moustakas. (Rendon is not coming here; Reds are not paying him $300 million.)

    • AirborneJayJay

      Don’t forget about Didi. I think this now puts Didi at the forefront in the Reds minds now. I haven’t thought about Didi for a few days now.
      Didi and Castellanos would still be a coup.
      I know next to nothing about defensive metrics for catchers aside from throwing out runners, but here is a site that has Barnhart ranked as the 2nd best C in 2019, Grandal in at 3rd, Casali at 13th.
      http://www.statcorner.com/CatcherReport.php

  2. FreeHouse

    I can live with Tucker and Casali behind the plate. With Ty Stephenson being on the 40 man roster if he’s killing the ball in AAA he’s the next man up. Reds need to go get Castellanos, Didi and perhaps Zach Wheeler.

    • Justin

      Maybe the Reds see Stephenson pushing things at spring training. Assuming he kept learning while hurt, he’s been around the minors long enough that it’s not a stretch.

    • PD

      Chirinos was a bad move. And GOAT, you would be a terrible GM.

  3. CI3J

    Well, that’s that. In my mind, upgrading catcher was “Grandal or bust”. Since Grandal is gone, time for the Reds to look at spending the money they would have given him to upgrade elsewhere (CF? SS?).

    • Eric

      +100

      Dumping a bunch of cash into a 36-year-old catcher, who could turn out to be a rental? Um, no. Unless the free-agent catcher is a significant improvement over Barnhart and Casali, both offensively and defensively, then the answer is NO.

      • Goat

        I would focus on trading for Corey Seagar over signing Gregorius and I would also be in contact with the Yankees in a deal for clink Frazier. I would unload Barnhart to one of these teams fore these players.
        Next, sign Jason Castro as my everyday catcher. Now use some money signing a #3?or #4 pitcher. Trade Winker and sign Ozuna or Corey Dickerson. There will be bargains once the season nears and that can be used to get pitchers to complement the bullpen.
        Not signing Grandal will one of the best moves they didn’t make as long as they use their money wisely in deals similar to the ones mentioned.

    • Ghettotrout1

      I agree no Grandal then forget it. Move to Ozuna/Castellanos/Gregorious/Puig/Wheeler/Ryu/Moustakas….. Etc. No need for a 36 year old bad defensive catcher. Waste of money in my mind.

  4. BigBill

    I am down here in Dallas and can tell you that there is no reason to pursue Robinson Chirnos. He is a worse defensive version of Tucker. way to many strike outs and very streaky hitter. Either lights out for a week or can’t touch the ball.

    This was a major mistake by the Reds in not getting aggressive for Grandal. Weak area of the team and not many ways to really upgrade until MAYBE Stephenson is ready in a year or two. Grandal solved so many issues with power, on base % and ability to hit left handers so he could spell Votto thus making him a better hitter as well. This was a 6-7 win move for Cincy that they missed out on. Disappointed in Dallas.

  5. Jon

    Ugh… Grandal was the one free agent position player on the market that was a clear upgrade for the Reds and made sense. Waiting for Tyler Stephenson to develop in AAA for one or two more years makes no sense for an all-in team in 2020. Chirinos is only slightly better than league average offensively and may very well fall below average at age 36. Wonder if Dick Williams will reveal what the team’s offer was to Grandal? Now signing Gregorius for SS is a must.

    • CI3J

      I’m going to be really, really upset if I find out it was the same old Reds and their penny-pinching ways. Maybe they refused to go about 4/$70 million, and they lost him for just $3 million more. Speculation, I know, but that does seem to be what happens with the Reds more often than not.

      Oh well, move on. Hopefully they are still willing to spend some serious cash to upgrade at SS and/or CF. The problem is, there’s really not many good options available on the FA market, and the Reds are going to be competing for this limited resource.

      I was excited for this offseason, but losing Grandal has really cooled my jets.

      • Colorado Red

        Seems hope is the Reds strategy again.
        Doubt we sign Didi, and top 50 FA.
        Despite the words, the action are cheap.
        Another 85-90 loss season on the way.
        (turning sour fast)

      • Justin

        I think it was the term. 4 years a is a long time with a top 100 catcher entering AAA. The more I thought about it and the idea of 4 years were rumored for Grandal, the less I liked it.

      • jim walker

        I agree with Justin. It was likely about the term. 4 years is too long with Stephenson in the wings because the only other spot Grandal might play is 1B and that apparently is locked down for the same term.

  6. Andrew A Papier

    How or why would this be better than Tucker? No way.

    • Droslovinia

      Absolutely! I’m still wondering why the addiction to stats has gone so far that people risk millions of dollars on them. How many statistical models had the Nationals winning it all at the beginning of last season? Are we watching baseball or math?

  7. Jefferson Green

    Disappointment. Grandal was the one player that could immediately upgrade this team in a big (4-6 win) way. I would have been fine with an overpay to get him into town, including what the White Sox just paid. Maybe Grandal didn’t want to come back here after being traded away – who knows, but this is the FA signing I had been most hoping for.

  8. G-Man

    With the White Sox getting Grandal, I’ve been wondering if the Reds will now try to put together a trade for Chicago’s James McCann? Here is what the ESPN report said about McCann:

    James McCann, 29, was the White Sox’s starting catcher last season and was an All-Star for the first time, hitting .273 with 18 home runs and 60 RBIs. He is signed for the 2020 season with a contract that carries a base salary of $4.9 million.

    Thoughts?

    • Jefferson Green

      I don’t know much about him, but his only good season was last year, and his wRC+ only rose to 109 based upon a really high BABIP. If his BABIP regresses to his career norm (or anywhere near it), he is not an offensive upgrade over Tucker and Curt. If the White Sox thought he would repeat it, they probably would not have been so eager to pay big bucks to Grandal.

  9. Bill J

    If the Reds sign Castellanos, I propose a trade with Miami, Iggy & Winker for Jazz Chisholm.

  10. RedsFan11

    What were we thinking, same old Reds…. Bobby just as bad as Mikey… Must already be a Tucker Barnhart bobble head night on the schedule…..

    He was either in love with Tucker “ala” Billy Hamilton, or he is to cheap to spend the money. 4 years $18 mil is easily worth it. If it comes out that the Reds just got outbid then there is simply no excuse.

    • Ghettotrout1

      Agreed they better have not gotten outbid and that was that. But I will hold judgement to see who else they bring in….. But probably same old same old no one wants to play here and we just have to trade the farm to be a half way respectable team.

    • Jefferson Green

      I posted my own disappointment above, so I wish the Reds had landed Grandal, but it is important to wait and see what else happens – and what sometimes comes out later about FA offers. Last year the Reds targeted JA Happ in free agency, and they outbid the Yankees; Happ wanted to stay in NYC anyway. We do not know if Grandal didn’t want to come back to the team or play in Cincinnati for his own reasons. I will be surprised – and even more disappointed – if the Reds didn’t offer at least $18 million for at least 3 years.

    • Tom

      Why so harsh? We have so many area’s to improve that you feel one player, overpaying said player and blocking said catcher stud almost ready for prime time for a maybe wild card berth? This makes no sense, actually I imo will shed the FO would have waited one more year to plunge in FA market heavy. They would be able to evaluate some of their new studs and get a better idea for spending in 21’. But sadly this is to the attitude today, been Reds fan for just 21 years, but I know failure, been life-long Mariners fan so yes, I understand. But as the movies said, stay the course and they will be a playoff bound team.

  11. BK

    Based on Steamer’s projections, Grandal would have represented about 4 WAR upgrade over Barnhart. I don’t really see another catcher out there that moves the needle.

    Castellanos and Ozuna are solid, but as corner outfielders the value they would displace (anticipated platoon of Winker/Ervin in LF and Aquino in RF) could easily negate the value they would bring.

    Using Steamer’s projections, the next targets should be:
    – Gregorius: nets a little over 2 wins at SS vice Peraza or Galvis. Expect to pay 3/$42M to 48M ($14M to $16M AAV).
    – Moustakas: nets a little over 2 wins at 2B over VanMeter. Expect to pay 2/$20M to $32M ($10 to $16M AAV)

  12. DocProc

    Really disappointed the Reds didn’t land Grandal.
    It would add insult to injury to add Chirinos instead.
    Just. Say. No.

  13. Scott C

    I am disappointed not being able to sign Grandal but I am glad that the Reds had enough sense not to commit 4 years to him. The AAV salary seems appropriate but not four years. I don’t see anyone else on the FA market for that position, trading for McCann would make sense although I do not know how long he is controlled for or how much he makes or what it would take to get him from the Sox. But I say a Big NO to Chirinos. There is not enough upgrade there to warrant that we need impact bats and certainly do not need to weaken our defense with a bat that is not a big bat.

    • Optimist

      Sounds correct – the 4th year is the killer. Overpay a bit for 3 – say 3/60m – AAV 20 per, but at that age the 4th year is a no-go. Just hope they weren’t close in the bidding – either going for the 4th year, or juicing the 3 year deal.

      With all that, don’t go second rate chasing – move on to the SS, OF or SP offers.

      Still hoping a big trade may obviate the need for a big FA signing.

      • Earmbrister

        I agree Optimist and Scott, makes no sense to go FOUR years with Tyler waiting in the wings. Spend the $ at SS & OF.

  14. Hotto4Votto

    This article did nothing to sell me on the idea of bringing in Chirinos. Too risky to commit decent money to a 36 year old catcher who’s poor defensively. Agree with the post above that catching upgrades were Grandal or bust. I’m fine, not thrilled, with Tucker and Casali.
    Focus on upgrading SS, 2B/CF and a corner OF bat.

  15. Satchmo

    If there is one position that a glove first player “works” it’s catcher. I never was a big fan of sinking lots of money into a player that will get 150 games max. (Catchers take more off days than any other position player).

    I’d prefer they use some trade chips for an established bat-first SS.

  16. Redsfan4life

    If the White Sox dont wanna trade McCann how about another White Sox catcher Zach Collins?

    • Colorado Red

      With a negative war, and a lower batting avg then our guys?
      NO CHANCE>

    • doofus

      On Collins: “While he doesn’t have to hit for a high average to be productive, it still remains to be seen if he can make it as a catcher. He lacks soft hands and is a shaky receiver, and his solid arm strength plays down because of a slow transfer and sinking action on his throws.” ~MLB.com 2019 Top 10 Prospect list by team.

  17. AllTheHype

    Chirinos has same avg OPS the last 2 years as Casali, and is a worse defender, This would not be an upgrade. Want an upgrade at C? Let Casali start and Barnhart back up.

  18. TR

    No need for Chirinos. Stay with Barnhart/Casali for next year. Stephenson is on the way. Use money for Gregorius, a centerfielder and pitching.

  19. Steven Ross

    Nobody and I mean…nobody…predicted Grandal would go to the CWS. Moral of the story: pure conjecture on who the Reds will get in the offseason! Makes for good copy but “you” don’t know.

  20. Ron Payne

    How about Freddy Galvis to Seattle for C Nomar Narvaez?

    • AllTheHype

      Seattle passed waivers on Galvis. They could have had him for just his contract. Why would they give up anything for him, especially someone like Narvaez?

    • Colorado Red

      2.1 vs 1.6 WAR, the Reds would have to sweeten the pot.

  21. RedNat

    Reds are like the Bengals. Only big name free agents they will be able to get are those with local ties. Aka Dave Parker. We are going to have to rely on trades to get the best players. Meaning are scouting and player development must improve

  22. Jim m

    I rather have McCann over a .234 hitting 36 year old catcher. Im still ticked off they didnt get aggresive on signing Grandal. Dick Williams better deliver as i do NOT want to hear the same old song like Walt Jockety!!!! “We tried but couldnt get who we wanted” BS!!

  23. Steve Schoenbaechler

    I’m not too worried about this. First, our priority is offense; I would like to see it in the form of OBP (I believe we have plenty of power). As long as we answer that, that’s fine.

    As for Chirinos’ throwing runners out, I thought teams were stealing bases less, anyhow. When you priority is offense, there is the direct possibility of sacrificing something else.

    As for the money saved, as long as we put it elsewhere, again, I’m fine with this.

  24. Mark

    This team needs to not worry about C position at this point. The focus needs to be on offense for LF and SS unless Galvis is the SS and Senzel going to 2b. If this is the case they need to definitely get the best LF they can get whether it be Ozuna or Castellanos. I think they need to make Didi a priority though along with rbi production from LF.

    • JoshG

      i don’t see Ozuna as an upgrade over winker/Ervin

      • Hotto4Votto

        Me either. Last season Winker 111 OPS+, Ozuna 107 OPS+, Ervin 102 OPS+. Played to their strengths in a platoon I just don’t see where Ozuna is a clear upgrade or worth the dollars + the draft pick.

    • BK

      Here’s some telling data on the FA top corner OF vice current Reds:

      Marcel’s projections found at Baseball Reference:
      – Castellanos OPS: .846
      – Ozuna OPS: .815
      – Aquino OPS: .849
      – Winker OPS: .832
      – Ervin OPS: .774

      Steamer projections:
      – Castellanos OPS: .820
      – Ozuna OPS: .847
      – Aquino OPS: .775
      – Winker OPS: .828
      – Ervin OPS: .725

      Actual results from 2019:
      – Castellanos OPS: .863
      – Ozuna OPS: .800
      – Aquino OPS: .891
      – Winker OPS: .830 (.877 against RHP; career .907 vs. RHP)
      – Ervin OPS: .797 (1.038 against LHP; career .907 vs. LHP)

      The projection models and actual results show only marginal gain, if any by signing a FA corner OF. The best available FA are simply not good enough to top a platoon of Ervin/Winker in LF and Aquino in RF. Aquino’s performance carries a good deal of risk (2019 was a breakout year for him), but he arguably has the highest upside. A player like Thames or Shogo Akiyama–someone who can compete with our players but ideally serve as a backup and strengthen our bench would be ideal.

      • JoshG

        I’d like to see them grab someone like Brock Holt, who has a decent bat but can play anywhere

  25. AirborneJayJay

    Kyle Boddy, the Reds new Pitching Coordinator, had a very interesting Q&A yesterday on the internet. He gives some great insight. It gives a fan a little faith in the Reds front office after all.
    One response he had on why he chose the Reds over other teams was very fascinating.
    “The Reds’ interview process was by far the most organized and professional of all the clubs I went to. They had done their homework, and were actually interviewing me, Kyle Boddy, not stirring up a conversation about where the club may or may not go. They had defined ideas on where they wanted to go, but knew they wanted to bring in expertise on the subject. Their questions were probing, tough, and they didn’t shy away from MY difficult questions.”
    ” I chose the Reds because their vision for player development and a top-down integrated approach most closely aligned with my thoughts, and the people I’d get to work with from the front office, hitting, pitching, analytics, and scouting sides were all incredibly interesting. David Bell called me multiple times, and Derek Johnson flew out to Seattle for a face to face meeting. They took the time to get to know me, and to ask tough questions. That meant a heck of a lot.”
    -Kyle
    “EDIT: I took less money and fewer years to be in Cincinnati. This is where I wanted to be.”
    Here is a link to all the Q&A’s.
    https://old.reddit.com/r/Reds/comments/dzoexb/reds_ama_i_am_kyle_boddy_director_of_pitching/

    • Jeffrey Copeland

      That was a fantastic read.

  26. SultanofSwaff

    The scuttlebut here in the Chicago area is that the Cubs are talking to the Reds about a deal for Wilson Contreras. With 2 years of control left, the Reds would likely be giving up pitching from the major league roster plus prospects….hmmm.

  27. Roger Garrett

    The Reds have to upgrade offensively up the middle of the diamond especially at short,second and behind the plate.Just can’t start 2020 with the same guys that finished 2019 and expect Tucker,Peraza.Iggy/Galvis to suddenly hit.Jf that’s the best then I vote for JVM and Stephensen as every day guys in 2020.I don’t know if they can or can’t but I know the others can’t.

  28. Mark Moore

    Not in love with a 4-year deal either with Tyler coming up. So I’m a little disappointed, but I’m hoping this quickly turns our focus to the bats we really need elsewhere.