Sep 29, 2012; Chicago, IL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays catcher Chris Gimenez (16) hits a home run against the Chicago White Sox during the sixth inning at U.S. Cellular Field. The Rays beat the White Sox 10-4. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

Will Chris Gimenez Return to the Tampa Bay Rays?

The last few weeks have not gone as Chris Gimenez would have hoped. After failing to make the Oakland Athletics’ roster out of spring training, Gimenez was claimed off waivers by the Texas Rangers. Then Texas proceeded to designate him for assignment and outright him to Triple-A Round Rock. The good news for Gimenez: because he has been outrighted before, he had the option to either accept the assignment or elect free agency. Gimenez thought his best opportunity would come elsewhere, so he has elected to become a free agent. What happens now? There is the slight possibility he gets an offer to join a team’s big league roster, but in all probability he will be looking to head to another team’s Triple-A affiliate. As noted by Marc Topkin, the team with a clear advantage if he does that is the Tampa Bay Rays.

It had to be a little insulting for Chris Gimenez that the Rangers claimed him off waivers yet were unwilling to give him their backup catcher job over fellow ex-Rays’ catcher Robinson Chirinos. The reasons are simple: Chirinos has an option remaining and is no longer a prospect at 29 years old, so why wouldn’t the Rangers simply demote him to Triple-A? Instead, the Rangers wanted Gimenez to be the third fiddle at catcher who is guaranteed nothing–and by the way, he would have been fourth on the depth chart when Geovany Soto eventually returns from knee surgery. His relationship with the Rangers was not off to the best start, so Gimenez decided to seek an opportunity elsewhere. There are worst situations than being a third catcher behind two less-than-ideal options like J.P. Arencibia and Chirinos for a couple of months, but Gimenez has to hope someone would give him a better chance than that. Could the Rays be that team?

The Rays like their catching situation as much as ever this season with Ryan Hanigan starting and Jose Molina backing him up. Behind him, however, they have a major gap, with no other catchon the 40-man roster. Curt Casali is a talented prospect that they could theoretically add, but he has just 37 games above A-ball. At Triple-A right now, the Rays have Ali Solis and Eddy Rodriguez, both of whom have inconsistent track records and are not legitimate options for the big league team. The Rays need a Triple-A catcher they can rely on, and we know they think of Gimenez as that and more. After appearing in 42 major league games for the Rays in 2012, the club called up Gimenez in September of 2013 even after a poor season at Triple-A Durham. He is a solid defensive catcher with good plate discipline, and he boosts his entire profile with his great versatility. If Hanigan or Molina were to get hurt, the Rays would have no hesitation adding Gimenez to their 40-man roster and using him as their second catcher for as long as necessary. Even if that did not happen, the Rays would be extremely likely to call him Gimenez for September to be their third catcher then. The Rays are the team that appreciates Gimenez the most and would be most likely to give him a chance. You almost have to wonder how Gimenez could end up anywhere else.

Chris Gimenez is assessing all of his options right now after electing to become a free agent. At the end of the day, though, the Rays organization can offer Gimenez a comfort no one else can and a clear opportunity for big league time. It would be a major surprise if Gimenez ends up heading to any club other than the Rays.

Tags: Chris Gimenez Robinson Chirinos Tampa Bay Rays

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