By: Kevin Hageland

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SURPRISE, ARIZ. – On the surface, Tuesday’s announcement that the Texas Rangers had signed catcher Robinson Chirinos to a one-year contract extension for 2018 (with a club option for 2019) might not have seemed like the biggest news.

After all, while Chirinos was the club’s Opening Day catcher in 2015 and 16, he played only a combined 135 games those two seasons and was supplanted as the starting catcher last year by Jonathan Lucroy.

But look a little closer and the value of Chirinos is very apparent.

“We always say you need more than five starting pitchers to win a championship,” said Jon Daniels, Rangers general manager. “Well, you also need more than one starting catcher.”

Daniels made this statement at a joint press conference with Chirinos on Tuesday afternoon, but it was after the presser that the true worth of the 32-year-old catcher was on display as Rangers manager Jeff Banister immediately went to embrace Chirinos.

PHOENIX, AZ – APRIL 21: Manager Jeff Banister #28 of the Texas Rangers watches from the dugout during the MLB game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on April 21, 2015 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

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“Robbie talked about how this is a family and it really is,” Banister said. “My handshake and hug, it was congratulatory, but, as you could see, it was also emotional for us – not only because of what [Chirinos] means to our team, but what this contract will mean for he and his family.”

That sentiment was echoed throughout the locker room.

“Chirinos worked so hard for the deal now and everyone is really happy for him,” said Martin Perez, Rangers starting pitcher. “He’s a good player, a good teammate, a good dad, good everything man. He’s my best friend here on the team and I’m happy for him cause he’s a great guy and he’s going to help us win.”

Today was the earliest Chirinos could ink his new deal (which is for $2.25 million in 2018 and $2.375 on the 2019 option) as he just returned to the club after starting behind the dish for five of Team Venezuela’s seven games in the World Baseball Classic.

“I feel like I belong here,” Chirinos said. “And I hope I’ll be here, not only the next three years but hopefully after that a long time too.”

Chirinos, who made his Major League debut in 2011 with the Tampa Bay Rays, has been with Texas since 2013. Over the last three seasons, he has averaged 11 home runs for the Rangers with an OPS of .745, which is ninth best among catchers during that span (minimum 700 plate appearances.). Chirinos has also thrown out 29.6 percent of attempted base stealers since 2014, which is fifth best in the American League (minimum 200 games).

Off the diamond, the winner of the Rangers 2016 Jim Sundberg Community Award has been active on the charity scene, working with several local organizations while also remaining heavily involved in the Robinson Chirinos Foundation, which he started in 2012 in his hometown of Punto Fijo, Venezuela to benefit youth and families in that community.

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“I love everything about this team,” Chirinos said, “and I’m proud to say I’m a Texas Ranger.”