Robinson Chirinos did everything he possibly could. After cracking the major leagues with the Rays in 2011, he was in the mix for their backup catcher job in spring training of 2012 when a foul tip hit him in his catcher’s mask, leaving him with a concussion. Chirinos worked diligently to recover, struggling through headaches that never seemed to end and left him incapacitated for long stretches of time, and he found a way to be healthy in time for the start of camp this season. Chirinos got into 9 games for the Rays in spring training and hit just .222 (2 for 9) but managed a .417 OBP on the strength of 3 walks against just 1 strikeout. He still had a long way to go before he would be ready to contribute in the major leagues once again, but he was making his way back and had a real chance to see all of his efforts come to fruition. But none of that mattered when Luke Scott got hurt, forcing the Rays to add Shelley Duncan to their 40-man roster and designate Chirinos for assignment in a corresponding move. They hoped against hope that he would pass through waivers and remain in their organization, but it wasn’t to be. The Rangers claimed Chirinos off waivers and the Rays traded him to the Rangers for a player to be named later or cash a few days later.
Chirinos had the highest upside of the Rays’ catchers with big league experience, and while he didn’t have a place on their roster for now with Jose Lobaton and Chris Gimenez slotting behind Jose Molina, he had the ability if healthy to play his way back into time. In 2010 in the Cubs organization, Chirinos broke out, hitting .326 with 18 home runs and 44 walks against just 43 strikeouts in 380 plate appearances, and after he was traded to the Rays in the Matt Garza deal following the season, he looked like he might emerge as the Rays’ catcher of the future. Chirinos has not lived up to that standard of play since, but he has still had his moments, most notably a game for the Rays in 2011 where he had game-tying and walk-off singles in back-to-back innings. 28 years old and no longer prospect age, Chirinos still has a chance to be a catcher who could deliver solid performance both at the plate and behind it, making him valuable player if he can put his concussion behind him. Despite all of Chirinos’ potential, though, he still comes with considerable risk and the Rays couldn’t afford to keep him on their 40-man roster when the Scott injury necessitated them to add a player to their roster who can help their major league team right now.
This Robinson Chirinos isn’t a case of a bad player getting shipped out of town or the Rays getting good value for a solid player they didn’t have room for. The Rays were basically just stuck in a situation where they liked Chirinos but couldn’t keep him on their roster and had to lose him to Texas for almost nothing. The whole situation is made even worse because had the Rays known that Jeff Niemann would require shoulder surgery one week earlier, they would have been able to place him on the 60-day DL and keep Chirinos. Instead, the Rays are left shaking their heads as Chirinos heads to the Rangers, and while Chirinos is far from a star and may very well amount to nothing, it still stings to lose a promising player because of a string of events that happened at precisely the wrong time.