Astros might not be done shopping for catching

Addition of Chirinos won't preclude Houston from exploring options

December 6th, 2018

HOUSTON -- Astros president of baseball operations and general manager Jeff Luhnow said Thursday the addition of catcher to a one-year contract for 2019 doesn't necessarily mean the team is through shopping for catchers.

Chirinos, a well-respected veteran who played the last six years with the Rangers, provides stability to the Astros' catching situation going forward, with having signed with the Braves and still a free agent. He joins as the only catchers on the team's 40-man roster with Major League experience.

"I think it was the right thing for me and my family," Chirinos told "We live here in Dallas, so Houston is close to home and they have a great team. It was the right thing for me and family, so I'm excited."

When asked if the team could still add another catcher, Luhnow said it remains to be seen. He'll head to Las Vegas on Monday with some of his top baseball operations staffers for baseball's Winter Meetings.

"We certainly feel good about going into the season with Stassi and Chirinos as our catchers," he said. "We've got [prospect Garrett] Stubbs in the Minor Leagues and other players as well. It doesn't mean we won't take advantage of the opportunity if one presents itself as a way to get better, but right now we feel comfortable with the group we have."

Chirinos came up with the Rays in 2011, and he spent the past six seasons with the Rangers, playing in 442 games in that span. That included a career-high 113 games and 426 plate appearances last season, in which he hit .222 with a .338 on-base percentage and .757 OPS. He logged career highs in homers (18) and RBIs (65).

The 34-year-old will make $5.75 million next season, according to The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal, which is $1.25 million more than the option he had for '19 that was turned down by the Rangers.

"Robinson is a good fit for our team," Luhnow said. "He's been an above-average offensive catcher who's going to fit well into our system here and will give us, when he's in the lineup, a dangerous bat towards the bottom of the order.

"He's a guy we've gotten to know over the years watching him with the Rangers, and we felt like with McCann's departure and Maldonado being a free agent that this was a low-risk signing for us to make sure we had a solid group of catchers going into next year."

Chirinos is close friends with fellow Venezuelan and said the former AL MVP started recruiting him as soon as the Rangers declined his option.

"We were talking about the possibility to be teammates, and I just thank God I have the opportunity to be with him in the same clubhouse and be able to go out to the field and compete with him," Chirinos said. "We have a good relationship. We talk a lot and he's been a good friend for a long time. I'm excited to be wearing the same uniform."

When asked what's on the Astros' front burner as the Winter Meetings draw closer, Luhnow said starting pitching. and Charlie Morton are free agents, leaving a couple of holes in the rotation behind and .

"We're still evaluating different ways to improve the team, but starting pitcher is one of the areas where we're looking at, maybe an arm to the bullpen and also another bat for the lineup," he said. "Those are three avenues we're exploring."

The presence of the designated hitter and the versatility of several of their players means the Astros could add a bat at just about any position and be able to configure a lineup that works.

"The most important thing would be getting someone that would produce offensively and help us win ballgames with their bat and offensive approach," Luhnow said.

The Astros had been reportedly linked to slugging first baseman , who was traded to the Cardinals from the D-backs, and pitcher , who re-signed with the Red Sox, but Luhnow wouldn't say if the Astros were in talks about acquiring either of those players.

"We're not surprised by some of the transactions that have happened," Luhnow said. "Some of them, we might have been involved in to a certain extent. We don't react based on what happens to other clubs. We've got a plan, which we feel is the right way to balance what we need for this season and the long-term health of the franchise. We're going to continue along that plan, and I think we're in good shape."