NOVEMBER 20: The Rangers have announced the signing.
NOVEMBER 19: Mathis will receive a $6.25MM guarantee, per Rosenthal (via Twitter). He’ll get $3.25MM in 2019 and $3MM in 2020, Jon Heyman of Fancred adds on Twitter.
NOVEMBER 15: The Rangers have agreed to a contract (pending physical) with free agent catcher Jeff Mathis, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (via Twitter). It’s said to be a two-year deal for the veteran receiver, with financial details not yet known.
Let’s get the obvious out of the way up front: Mathis is already 35 years of age and he’s an exceedingly unproductive hitter. Of course, even when he was 25 the deficiencies with the bat were well known. Over his 14-year MLB career, Mathis has rarely wavered too far from the anemic .198/.258/.306 mean batting line he has produced through 2,694 trips to the plate.
For virtually any other player, that sort of accumulation of statistics would not even be possible, simply because the opportunity would dry up. Mathis, though, is a rare bird. Not only is he still at the top of the class in many of the measurable tools of the trade, but he’s also regarded as a game-management savant.
Mathis just wrapped up a two-year pact with the Diamondbacks that promised him $2MM annually. For their money, the Snakes got 129 total games and just under 1,000 total innings behind the plate (plus three at second base and one on the hill).
During his time in Arizona, Mathis carried a 48 OPS+ that sits just shy of his lifetime 52 OPS+ mark. He also turned in a masterful 2018 pitch-framing effort, scored better than anyone but Tucker Barnhart at smothering balls in the dirt, and graded as average in controlling the running game. With his famed pitcher-whispering abilities mixed in, it’s eminently arguable that Mathis is the game’s best defender behind the dish — which, in fact, was the assessment of Sports Info Solutions (Twitter link).
For the Rangers, this move comes after the club rather surprisingly chose to bid adieu to Robinson Chirinos. The club chose to pay him a $1MM buyout rather than picking up his option for $4.5MM, an outwardly reasonable sum for the 34-year-old. Chirinos has steadily produced league-average-or-better offensive numbers over recent years but is not valued nearly so much for his efforts behind the dish. In particular, Chirinos received quite poor grades for his throwing and framing in 2018.
While Chirinos is reputedly a valued clubhouse leader, he evidently did not impress the team quite as much in squeezing value from the pitching staff. That’ll be the chief duty of Mathis, who’ll presumably see a fair bit of action and take a leading role in guiding a still-largely-undetermined group of hurlers. He could be paired with (and teach the dark arts to) Jose Trevino, utilityman Isiah Kiner-Falefa, and/or minor-league signee Jett Bandy, though the Rangers could still add options to the mix.
Not a bad start for the Rangers
Long Duc Dong
Rangers are going anywhere for the next couple of years that’s with the signing is this a stopped up you guys are talking like he’s a real incarnation of Johnny bench
Long Duc Dong
Let’s try this again this time without auto correct rangers are going nowhere for the next few years that is what the signing is he stop gap he is not here reincarnation of Johnny bench is a good defensive catcher I will give you limited innings due to his week bat
Ok, one more time with punctuation.
Commas and periods are a hell of a thing.
Go back to auto correct or try writing in emojis.
A good sign for rangers ya if your an angel fan. watching mathis hit was pure damn torture.
You tried, Long. You tried.
You must have missed 2009 when he tore it up in the postseason.
Texas is obviously wanting someone to help mentor young pitchers. That’s their only hope going forward. They aren’t trying to win next year but build toward winning through development.
I expected him to sign with the Yankees to form a new Core4 with Harper, Machado, and Corbin.
Finally someone signs
Savants get two year contracts. I like it.
3/48 coming up for Rain Man.
I’ll believe it when someone signs Doug Savant.
He’s basically Sandy Leon except for the incredible hot streak
Sandy Leon + maybe. Sandy Leon has got to be up there though. There is always the chance Sandy can hit league average for part of a season again.
Greinke to follow?
If I ever have a son he’s going to be a catcher because of Jeff Mathis’s career.
Make sure he can defend well because for every Jeff Mathis there are 10 Wilin Rosarios
Dang I wish the Cardinals would sign someone like Jeff Mathis for a backup to Molina!!
Doesn’t Kelly look to be like Mathis? Bad O but great D
Kelly has shown some decent offense, he has the potential.
How is he supposed to make bad Rangers pitching better?
read? he’s one of the best in pitch framing.
That’s literally what good catchers do
How about we look at it from this angle:
“Rangers catchers last season combined for -21 Defensive Runs saved
Only the White Sox (-27) were worse.”
Mathis was +17. (https://mobile.twitter.com/SportsInfo_SIS/status/1063252191547404290)
Exactly. He’s a tremendous defensive catcher who makes pitching staffs better. He can’t hit at all, and never has, but he’s on the managerial career path and it’s a good step to take for a team with bad outcomes recently for pitchers who have good stuff.
I agree. Mathis is a huge asset. I enjoyed watching him in LA, although a lot of folks hated his bat. Good pickup for Rangers.
Well he sucks… I wouldn’t even keep him for bullpen duty
Cool opinion man! I bet you’ll play OOTP as the Rangers and release Mathis over and over again. That’ll show him!
JJB I bet that guy doesn’t play OOTP. People who play baseball sims are smart enough to know why Mathis is valuable
Like you, thought he was a scrub, but Jeff’s Sports Info Solutions twitter link is eye-popping and worth quoting:
“Mathis led all catchers with 17 Defensive Runs Saved.”
“He had the highest pitch-blocking success rate and was among the leaders in pitch-framing.”
“He won Fielding Bible Award despite catching only a little more than 500 innings.” https://twitter.com/SportsInfo_SIS/status/1063248442066198530
Good stuff, Jeff! (MLBTR Jeff 🙂 )
Anyone have Mathis as the first catcher off the board? The timing to jump up and grab him is just hilarious.
On the contrary, he’s kind of a perfect fit for them, and they weren’t gonna go looking to spend a bunch of money on a catcher anyway. Why not pick him up asap before anyone else offers or shows interest?
I’d wait until he was about the last guy on the merry go round and had no leverage so I could sign him as cheaply as possible.
Then you would have missed out. His defense would have gotten him signed long before he was the “last guy on the merry go round”
I highly doubt it. Arizona signed him late last go around. It’s difficult to justify having what equates to a pitcher in the lineup, defense notwithstanding
I was hoping the diamondbacks would resign him. I figured they would solely to catch Greinke.
How do you frame a gopher ball?
As Greinke’s preferred catcher, the Rangers now become the odds on favorite to trade with the Dbacks for Greinke.
Sign Maldonado. You get a gold glove catcher who hits better and is also a great framer. He obviously would cost more, but why have that huge black hole at the bottom of the lineup.
Good thing he was number 51 on the MLBTR free agents list because I had him going to the Yankees as well as Harper, Machado, and Corbin to start a new and improved Core-4. This won’t affect my percentage to win the contest.
This is a great signing. The Rangers have a fair amount of young pitching talent, and working with Mathis will be a confidence booster and a learning experience.
Jeff Mathis must be the most charismatic man on earth. He has managed to stay in MLB for 14 seasons while batting .198. Kudos Mr. Mathis!
That’d make Mathis our cleanup hitter after the feeble batting averages the Rangers had from last year.
cq cq cq
Good thing batting avg doesn’t matter and it especially doesn’t matter for backup catchers.
The signing of Mathis means one thing. JD is blaming last years poor pitching on Chirenos.
Yeah, he should have caught those AAA pitchers throwing within 6′ of the plate
If I told you my callsign then you’d know who I am. But ham since September ’71
Maybe they can sign Johnny Bench and get a discount on Blue Emu too. Pitiful.
I guess it makes sense for a rebuilding team. It doesn’t really matter what he does at the plate, you just want someone young pitchers will trust behind the plate.
So this is Jon Daniels plan to rebuild the Rangers?
He trades Jonathan Lucroy age 32, great defense, good hitter.
He trades Robinson Chirinos. age 34, Saying bad defense however, Catching the worst Pitching staff in baseball. A good timely hitter. Clubhouse leader.
He signs Jeff Mathis 35 good game management [I thought that’s why we had a pitching coach?] no hitting.
Rename Globe Life Park to Statue of Liberty Park with a new Ranger slogan
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” and I’ll sign them up to a long term contract and teach them “LAUNCH ANGLE HITTING, No need for contact hitting, this is the Rangers…
Submit resume to Jon Daniels.
Jonathan Lucroys defense WAS NOT good in ‘17 for the rangers.
He was awesome here the year he arrived but that 2nd season was just awful!
That is correct. At the time, it appeared he had developed a bad attitude that was effecting his game.
Chirinos was never traded anywhere. His contract was over, he is a Free Agent
But yeah, rebuilding is generally trading away unneeded parts for what you can get then signing (usually Vets or guys with leadership qualities) stopgaps to fill-in for a while – exactly as is being done
He was arb eligible… they had the ability to control him another year.
No, he became a FA when they declined the 4.5 million Option on the 2017 2year extention they had signed
Any doubts of not tendering Sandy Leon a contract now at the guesstimated 2m figure are dispelled when Mathis gets around 4m over 2y and Leon is 6y younger for at this stage, the same player and who knows how long Mathis can hold up.
I will teach my future son to be a catcher
teach him to hit though please
you know it’s slow when we’re seeing like three detailed Jeff Mathis updates per week haha.