On Thursday, the Rangers signed catcher Chris Gimenez to a minor league contract with an invite to spring training.
This small transaction could mean the Rangers have found their backup catcher for Robinson Chirinos. If Gimenez impresses, then quite possibly staff ace Yu Darvish will have one of his favorite catchers behind the plate returning.
Last season before being traded to Cleveland, Gimenez caught 12 of Darvish's 22 starts. Darvish went 6-4 with two no-decisions, three complete games (the New York Yankees game July 23 was ruled a complete game due to weather), pitched into the seventh inning seven times and had three games with double-digit strikeout efforts with Gimenez as the catcher.
Gimenez, 31, had a batting average of .241 with 10 home runs and 11 RBIs with Texas and Cleveland. But he's not here for his bat. Darvish needs a catcher with experience and while Chirinos is the favorite to become the No. 1 man, he just became a full-time catcher within the last year. He started 88 games at catcher and GM Jon Daniels said Chirinos has the ability to catch 100 games.
At one point during the first half of the season, Gimenez caught Darvish for nine consecutive starts.
Of course, some pitchers can throw to anybody behind the plate, but when you have a solid comfort level between Darvish and Gimenez, you attempt to take advantage of it.
Tomas Telis is another possibility to make the team as a backup catcher. He was a late season call-up and was praised for how well he called a game. He needs work on throwing out runners and improved his mechanics in that area in winter ball before a hand (non-throwing) injury slowed his progress.
Telis and Gimenez are in the mix to back up Chirinos, but here's another name worth mentioning: Jose Molina.
Tampa Bay designated Molina for assignment Thursday night and the club has 10 days to work a trade or release him and eat the $2.75 million on his contract.
Molina comes from the famed Molina catching family. Bengie, was a Rangers' first base coach last season. Jose hit just .178 with one extra-base hit during the second half of last season. Age, 39, might be a factor, yet rumors were flying Thursday night that the Rangers had interest though nothing solid was confirmed team officials.
A veteran backup who could catch 40-to-50 games wouldn't be a bad thing given Chirinos enters his second season as a full-time catcher. There are some younger catchers, such as Telis and Jorge Alfaro (one of the top minor league prospects), but they aren't ready to catch in the big leagues full-time.
The Rangers want to improve the catching situation this offseason and the moves made Thursday and might help with that.