Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE
In which we discuss the likely and preferred landing spots for A.J. Pierzynski, free-agent catcher.
I will go this entire column without mentioning A.J. Pierzynski's personality. I will not mention the curling sneer, the half-cocked squint that he fashions from a dull pair of beady eyes. There will be a time and a place to list his transgressions against baseball, nay, humanity, and there will be a time and a place to wonder what Michael Barrett is up to, and if he would like to get a certificate for a "coffee of the month club" or something equally delightful. No, not in this column.
This column will not look upon A.J. Pierzynski and despair, wondering if it's all worth it, this love of baseball. Is it worth the crack of the grass and the smell of the bat to know that someone like A.J. Pierzynski exists? Not only exists, but is actively cheered and feted by his hometown fans, who look upon his existence with approval? These are questions that will not be asked in this column because it is not the appropriate time.
This column will not dig into the findings of studies like this:
While the conclusions are obvious, this is not the appropriate forum. This is a column about A.J. Pierzynski, free agent. For eight years, he's endeared himself to the South Side of Chicago in some kind of perverted baseball version of the Stockholm Syndrome. And now he can sign with anyone he pleases. Who would be interested in his services?
The first thing to note is that he's been one of the most durable catchers in history. He's been on the disabled list exactly once, and that was for a fractured wrist sustained on a hit-by-pitch. A catcher should have at least seven trips to the disabled list by the time he's 35. A player of Pierzynski's … reputation should have seven trips to the DL from hit-by-pitches alone by the time he's 35. Instead, you have a freakish player who has bucked the odds to be the paragon of health.
The second thing to note is that 2012 was the best season of his career. He set or tied career highs in slugging percentage, home runs, RBI, and runs scored. The rascal even hit four triples. Now, a team would be nuts to expect that again. For eight consecutive years, Pierzynski had an OPS+ between 83 and 94, which makes him one of the more dependable players in the league. He found an extra 15 or 20 home runs along the way, and that's swell. But it's almost certainly not going to happen again.
The third thing to note is that while this all fits the profile of a lefty-swinging catcher who hits well for his position, his defense is hurting his overall value. He was never supposed to be Pudge Rodriguez behind the plate, but the gap between Pierzynski and the average receiver continues to grow every year.
So what kind of contract should a player like that get? What in the world will he get? And from whom? The Royals, who sign him to a long-term deal so they can shop Salvador Perez for relief help? The Giants, following a Mike Trout/Buster Posey swap? Or are there other teams in the mix? Hmmm?
You know, the White Sox love him. White Sox fans love him. He was the catcher on the franchise's first World Series champions since 1917, breaking one of the most underrated curses in sports. And it doesn't hurt that he was one of the guiding lights in the lineup last year.
The White Sox have Tyler Flowers ready to go, however, and the 27-year-old has a long minor-league track record of hitting success, as well as a short track record of at least holding his own in the majors. If the White Sox bring Pierzynski back, sentimentality will play a big part, not pragmatism.
No, here's a rumor that makes a lot of sense. The Rangers are reportedly very keen on Pierzynski, and he was scheduled to meet with management on Tuesday night. The Rangers are currently planning to start Geovany Soto in a somewhat righty-heavy lineup. A Pierzynski signing would allow for a quasi-platoon and lots of regular rest, and if Pierzynski took to U.S. Cellular Field, he'll really love the Ballpark in Arlington.
Well, the true ideal would be the Dodgers, where he would force A.J. Ellis to the bench and teach the rest of the team to snarl and bay at the moon. But that's just the Giants fanboy in me. With that not a realistic scenario, give me the Yankees on a modest-if-somewhat-pricey two-year deal. A.J. Pierzynski on the Yankees. Tell me you can't see that? The Yanks are reportedly done spending, but if the offseason drags on and Texas moves in another direction, I can see the Yankees rolling back around in a surprise move. If George Steinbrenner were still in charge, the deal would have been done in November.
Rangers, two years, $18 million. His adjusted numbers will sink back to his career norms, but his raw numbers will look like he's continuing his renaissance. And Angels fans will get to relive their favorite moment over and over and over again, thanks to the miracle of the unbalanced schedule.