Under the cloak of putting together manager Chris Woodward’s coaching staff, the Texas Rangers have landed a veteran catcher known for his defensive prowess and leadership skills.
The Rangers have signed Jeff Mathis to a two-year contract, a deal first reported by the intrepid Ken Rosenthal and confirmed by a source. The Mathis signing appears to shut the door to a Robinson Chirinos return as, true to his word, general manager Jon Daniels sought a defensive upgrade behind the plate.
Daniels did not return a message seeking information on the reports.
Mathis, 35, spent the past two seasons with the Arizona Diamondbacks. He’s a 14-year veteran who started his career with the Los Angeles Angels, but, curiously, Mathis has never caught more than 100 games in his career.
Mathis is a defense-first catcher who has a career .198 batting average and 48 homers in 2,419 at-bats. He has a reputation for working well with pitching staffs, something that would be coveted for a rebuilding team, and for being a solid clubhouse guy.
He could also help develop young catchers Isiah Kiner-Falefa and Jose Trevino.
Kiner-Falefa is still trying to convert to catching after starting his professional career as an infielder, and he broke into the majors this year as an infielder. He is expected to be on the Opening Day roster.
Trevino, who also made his MLB debut in 2018, will be in spring training but could be slowed after having surgery on his left/non-throwing shoulder in July. He is the better defensive catcher, but his bat has lagged behind.