Backup help has arrived: Cubs ink veteran catcher Robinson Chirinos to one-year deal

Chirinos, 37, is a career .231 hitter with 86 homers and 269 RBI in 602 games. In 2019 with the Astros, he hit 17 homers, posted an impressive 1.8 defensive wins above replacement and played in the World Series.

SHARE Backup help has arrived: Cubs ink veteran catcher Robinson Chirinos to one-year deal
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Chirinos in 2020.

Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

The Cubs signed veteran catcher Robinson Chirinos to a one-year major-league contract Monday, bringing four words to mind: Why the heck not?

They’ve tried everything else in their ongoing effort to equip overworked starter Willson Contreras with a backup. Something has to work sooner or later — and Chirinos is a guy with actual credentials.

It’s also just a nice story. Chirinos, now 37, signed with the Cubs as an undrafted free agent in July 2000 and played 10 minor-league seasons in the organization before being included in a 2011 trade with the Rays that sent pitching prospect Chris Archer out and brought veteran starter Matt Garza in. So this is a very belated made-it-to-Wrigley Field moment.

Chirinos, who has spent all or parts of nine major-league seasons with the Rays, Rangers, Astros and Mets, is a career .231 hitter with 86 homers and 269 RBI in 602 games. He set career highs of 18 homers and 65 RBI with the Rangers in 2018. The next year with the Astros, he hit 17 homers, posted an impressive 1.8 defensive wins above replacement and played in the World Series.

He signed a minor-league deal with the Yankees in March but was released Saturday. At the time, he was batting .278 with three homers in 13 games in Triple-A.

“He’s a nice addition,” said Cubs manager David Ross, who was 37 himself when he signed with the Cubs heading into the 2015 season. “He’s got an infectious personality and got a great reputation within the game. . . . A catch-and-throw guy, really receives [well], and has got some pop.”

Chirinos made his first appearance in the ninth inning of Monday’s series opener against the Phillies at Wrigley Field, striking out. He’s already the sixth No. 2 catcher the Cubs have had in 2021, following Austin Romine, Tony Wolters, P.J. Higgins, Jose Lobaton and Taylor Gushue.

Gushue was designated for assignment.

Hard knocks

Javy Baez’s double to right-center in the third inning made such noise screaming off the bat that Kris Bryant tore off from first base with zero hesitation and scored easily.

It just so happened to be the hardest-hit ball of Baez’s career — 116.7 mph — and that’s saying something, given his violent swing. It was the hardest-hit ball by a Cub since Kyle Schwarber laced a 117.6 mph single in 2019.

Arms update

After a pair of rehab starts at Triple-A Iowa, right-hander Trevor Williams, who had an emergency appendectomy on May 30, will throw what Ross called an “intense” bullpen session off the mound Tuesday at Wrigley. His last rehab start went five innings, so he’s close.

Relievers Justin Steele (hamstring) and Dillon Maples (triceps) are expected to pitch in Iowa’s game Tuesday. Both could be back with the Cubs during this homestand.

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