Rangers searching for catcher to back up Chirinos
Wednesday’s acquisition of Evan Gattis from the Braves leaves the Astros with five players on their 40-man roster with major-league experience behind the dish. Gattis will likely spend most of his time either in the outfield or at designated hitter, but the logjam formed by Jason Castro, Hank Conger, Carlos Corporan and Max Stassi is still something that Houston will eventually need to sort out.
Enter the Texas Rangers, who began the offseason looking to acquire a catcher to share the workload with Robinson Chirinos, a converted backstop who has dealt with concussion issues in the past. As far as in-house options to complement Chirinos, the Rangers reportedly want Tomas Telis to get more seasoning at Triple-A before relying on him at the big-league level. Jorge Alfaro is still probably a year away from The Show.
Chirinos provided the Rangers with above-average power and improving defense behind the plate last season, but with the catching market thinning, Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram writes that the club’s focus has shifted toward acquiring a defensive-minded backup.
Within the article, Wilson reveals two players who are at the top of Texas’ wish list: Corporan and free agent Geovany Soto.
Wilson and Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle both reported on Thursday that the two Lone Star State clubs have discussed a trade that would send Corporan to the Rangers. Drellich writes that a mid-level prospect would be reasonable compensation for Corporan, who agreed with the Astros to a one-year, $975,000 deal to avoid arbitration on Thursday.
The 31-year-old backstop fits the mold of the player that Texas is searching for, as he provides a little bit of pop and his framing statistics have graded out well over his career. Although Corporan has never played in more than 64 games in a single season, he’s saved approximately 17.5 runs per 7,000 framing chances over the course of his career—a mark that would have ranked 14th in all of baseball last season.
On the other hand, the Rangers could turn to a familiar face in Soto, who was primed to open last season as the starting catcher before suffering an ankle injury that cost him the first half of the season. It took just three games for Soto to head back to the disabled list in July with a groin injury, and he was then traded to the Athletics in late August.
Given Soto’s injury history and declining skill set, he’s likely to come at a cheaper price than Corporan, who fits better as a guy who can fill in should Chirinos not be able to handle the rigors of a full season at the position. Chirinos recently told T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com that he’s spent this offseason training to start 150 games at catcher this season, but the fact remains that the 93 major-league games Chirinos spent behind the plate last season were the most that the former infield prospect has played at catcher since moving to the position in 2008.
Chris Cotillo of MLBDailiyDish.com also tweeted on Thursday that Soto is likely to sign with a team within the next few days and mentioned the Rangers as one of the few teams still in the mix. It appears that we’ll soon have a better idea of the direction that Texas decides to head towards.
Phillies interested in acquiring a top catching prospect in return for Hamels
Speaking of Rangers backstops, it’s likely that the club will have to part with their prized catching prospect, Jorge Alfaro, if they want to be serious players in the Cole Hamels market.
Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com reported Thursday that the Rangers are one of four primary suitors for Hamels, along with the Padres, Cardinals and Red Sox, and that the Phillies would “love to add a top catching prospect to the rebuild” if they were to deal their ace southpaw. Salisbury writes that the Phillies are high on Blake Swihart and would likely insist on getting Austin Hedges back in a trade with the Padres. Alfaro would be the obvious piece for Philadelphia to target in similar negotiations with the Rangers.
According to Salisbury, the Phillies continue to refuse to budge on their asking price for Hamels and would have to get two top talents to pull the trigger on a trade. Ruben Amaro’s lofty anticipation for what the club can get in return for Hamels, who is owed $96 million over the next four seasons, has clearly been a major impediment in the stalled trade talks for Hamels. A source familiar with the Phillies told Rob Bradford of WEEI.com on Thursday that the club has been "unrealistic in their expectations in regards to a return on Hamels.”
With the high price tag on Hamels and the Red Sox relatively comfortable with their current rotation, Salisbury writes that they are they team “most in the background” on Hamels. As for the Padres, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported earlier this week that the club was still in on Hamels and that recently discussed trade proposals did not include Wil Myers.