Diamondbacks sign veteran catcher Jeff Mathis

Jeff Mathis has played the last four seasons for the Miami Marlins.
Steve Mitchell/Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Three days after cutting ties with incumbent starting catcher Welington Castillo, the Arizona Diamondbacks began the process of replenishing their catching corps by signing veteran Jeff Mathis to a two-year contract.

The contract will pay Mathis $4 million, according to mlb.com.

The transactions herald an emphasis on upgrading the D-backs' defense behind home plate. Castillo has hit 31 home runs with a .261 average in 193 games for Arizona over the past two seasons, but his pitch framing was regarded as below average.

Mathis, who will turn 34 before the start of the 2017 season, has a .197 career average in 12 season with the Angels, Blue Jays and Marlins and has hit 45 home runs in 707 games. But he's regarded as a premier defensive catcher and game caller.

“With Jeff, we're getting a plus defender, game-caller and teammate,” general manager Mike Hazen said. “His veteran leadership on and off the field will be very valuable in the development of the young core of our club.”

Mathis spent the past four seasons with the Marlins — topping out at 73 games in 2013. He played in 41 games for Miami last season and hit .238 with two home runs.

The Diamondbacks reported that since Mathis' major-league debut in 2005, pitchers have a 3.78 cumulative ERA with him behind the plate — fifth best among active catchers and trailing only Buster Posey, Yadier Molina, Russell Martin and Salvardor Perez.

As the roster stands now, Mathis figures to divide time with Chris Herrmann, although Hazen might be in the market for additional catching help. The only other catcher on the 40-man roster is Oscar Hernandez, who is likely ticketed for additional minor-league seasoning.

Ryan Morrison at insidethezona.com made a compelling case that the defensive upgrade (30 runs saved, based on equal playing time) from Castillo to Mathis more than makes up for the offensive loss (15 to 20 runs). Of course, quantifying defensive value is an imprecise science, and it's difficult to know how the math changes if Mathis has a significantly smaller workload.