Free Agent Stock Watch: A.J. Pierzynski

After toiling through most of the season, free-agent-to-be A.J. Pierzynski seemed to suddenly remember he was in a contract year and set the world on fire over the season's final two months. An .821 OPS in August followed by an .815 in September helped Pierzynski at least moderately salvage the worst offensive season of his ten-year career as a Major League regular. Let's look at Pierzynski's situation as he heads into free agency:

The Good

  • Pierzynski owns a .284/.324/.424 slash line for his career, making him one of the game's better hitting catchers over the course of the past decade. He's not elite, but he's been consistent.
  • Pierzynski has played in at least 128 games every year since 2002. He's been able to stay healthy and productive for the most part, despite all of those innings behind the plate.
  • He's unlikely to be offered arbitration, due to his Type A status and $6.25MM base salary in 2010. This means a team interested in signing Pierzynski likely won't have to surrender a pick to do so.
  • He makes consistent contact. Pierzynski struck out in just 8.2% of his plate appearances this season, and his career mark is a solid 12.1%.

The Bad

  • While he doesn't strike out, he walks even less. A.J. walked in just 3% of his plate appearances this season and his career mark of 4% is hardly an improvement.
  • He doesn't come with the reputation of being a great defender behind the plate (though he's improved at throwing out runners each of the past two seasons, including a 26.5% mark this season).
  • Controversy seems to follow Pierzynski and he's been known to have attitude problems with other teams as well as his own.
  • He's 34 years old and has 10,756.2 innings behind the plate since becoming a regular catcher in 2001. He's DH'ed just twice in his career; when he plays, he catches. Given those numbers, it's possible that his 2010 decline is a sign of his body wearing down rather than a statistical aberration.

The Verdict

Pierzynski has been a solid offensive catcher throughout the duration of his career, and there's always teams in need at the position. He's said he'd like to return to Chicago, but has to look at what's best for he and his family. This probably means he's going wherever they pay him the most, and given Tyler Flowers' presence in Chicago (despite a down year in Triple-A), it may not be there. We saw two teams overpay for worse catchers last season when the Royals and Nationals gave two-year deals to Jason Kendall and Ivan Rodriguez, respectively, so it wouldn't shock me to see Pierzynski and his agent look for two years. However, this year's class is much deeper. Pierzynski will have to compete with Victor Martinez, John Buck, Ramon Hernandez, and Rod Barajas, among others. As such, Pierzynski may be limited to a one-year deal in the $3M-$4M range.

15 Responses to Free Agent Stock Watch: A.J. Pierzynski Leave a Reply

  1. Marty Barrett!

    • lug 5 years ago

      Yeah whatever happened to him? He wasn’t that good a player and had a punch that resembled my mother’s. Prolly selling insurance these days.

      • Marty never was much more than a platoon type catcher, but he landed one on Punkzynski’s jaw. Your mother packs a pretty good punch! Very satisfying moment!

  2. Slopeboy 5 years ago

    Like Carlton Fisk before him- it’s time to change your socks PJ! Boston would be a great fit for Pierzynski. He’s a grinder with ability and will do anything to win. He will make the Boston fans forget Veritek quickly.

  3. He doesn’t strike me as a guy who’s going to age well, especially considering his position. One year would be wise, two years if you’re desperate, three if you’re clinically insane. So Welcome to Houston with your new 3-year contract AJ!

  4. Jessamynn 5 years ago

    Not that Ivan Rodriguez is anything even remotely resembling what he was in his prime, but I understand why the Nats were okay with overpaying him (in relation to his production).

    I’ve seen enough of him this year to see that he’s very good at nurturing young pitchers, and if his presence legitimately helps Strasburg/Zimmermann/Storen reach their potential, I’d consider that money well spent — money going towards “protecting the investments”, if you will.

    Obviously the injury to Strasberg throws a wrench in that idea, but it’s not like the Nats could’ve foreseen that.

  5. Beauford 5 years ago

    Pierzynski will be offered arbitration and will not accept because (1) decent starting catchers are always in demand and Pierzynski is a left-handed hitting catcher with OK hitting ability for a catcher coupled with a history of durability and the ability to call a good game and (2) the Sox will employ the same convincing technique as they did with SS Orlando Cabrera that is “we have decided to replace you and if you accept arbitration you will be relegated to the bench as a 2nd stringer.”

  6. Beauford 5 years ago

    AJ hit .169/.229/.200 in April but .333/.356/.464 in August and .342/.354/.461 in September. Some teams may focus on his strong finish versus his horrible start.But here’s the point – There are not 30 good starting catchers much less ones that hit left handed and who call a good game. AJ’s age is mitigated by the fact that he has never been on the DL in 10+ seasons. Catching is a premium position and teams will pay for it. Earlier this year Texas was interested in AJ but the Sox turned it around and the trade never happened. Instead, Texas gave up a former 1st round pick (RHP Michael Main) for 36 year old Benjie Molina who hit .240/279/.320 for them. As far as draft choice compensation, the 15 teams with protected 1st round picks would lose their 2nd round pick for a Type A free agent. And should the Yankees sign a Type A free agent like Cliff Lee or Carl Crawford they could then turn the worst defensive catcher in baseball – Jorge Posada – into a DH by signing AJ who would then cost them a 2nd round pick. If they sign both Lee and Crawford, then AJ would cost a 3rd round pick. Finally, as stated earlier, the Sox will tell AJ he will spend the vast majority of the time on the bench as the 2nd string catcher if he accepts arbitration. AJ has never considered himself a bench warmer and will absolutely not accept such a situation. He will be offered a multi-year deal not because he is a star, but rather because teams are desperate for dependable catching and there is not a big pool from which to choose.

    • bjsguess 5 years ago

      1. That former #1 prospect was doing nothing for the Rangers. His last 2 seasons he posted ERA’s of 6.49 and 4.80. His K/9 rates were unremarkable. Maine may turn out well but to a team like the Rangers he was absolutely buried in their organizational depth chart.

      2. The Yankees aren’t going to want AJ. They may have a crappy defensive catcher but it doesn’t seem to matter. Last check they are still demolishing their opponents. If they really want to go all defense, Laird makes much more sense. He’s superior defensively, will sign for less, and doesn’t cost a pick. Personally, I think the Yanks just ride it out with Posada.

      3. Players will go where the money is. The WS may threaten to stick him on the bench but it’s a hallow threat. They don’t have anyone who is a clear upgrade. They aren’t going to shell out big money for a FA catcher or trade away premium talent just so they can pay AJ $8m to ride pine.

      I do agree that he has a chance for a multi-year deal. However, it will NOT be for big money. If he exceeds 2/$10 I will be shocked. And if that is close to accurate he would be a fool for not accepting arbitration.

      • Beauford 5 years ago

        1. In his short pro career, Main has definitely posted unremarkable numbers for both the Rangers and Giants. He has also suffered through a serious viral infection and a cracked rib. Even with these numbers, the Giants thought enough of this kid to place him on their AA team at the age of 21. They must see something they like beyond the numbers.2. Laird has a better arm but has caught 1,000 innings once in his career while Pierzynski has done it 9 consecutive seasons. The left handed hitting Pierzynski would also be a better offensive threat in Yankee Stadium than Laird. But maybe the draft choice will scare away the Yankees from Pierzynski. However, the Yankees will not ride it out with the soon-to-be 40 year old Posada with the hands of stone as their primary catcher in 2011. 3. Points 1 and 2 are merely ancillary to point 3 which is the central point. I totally agree that Pierzynski will not receive $8M per year. I believe he will receive a 3-year deal for $4M to 5M per year with Tyler Flowers and Ramon Castro handling the catching. If Flowers does not fulfill expectations, then address it again in 2012. Most importantly, Pierzynski will absolutely positively not accept arbitration. He will take the certainty of a good 3-year contract as a starter vs. a very good 1-year contract as a backup because of the playing time plus the uncertainty whether future money will be there for him due to the economy or injuries. Finally, he knows something that you don’t know – Kenny Williams does not make hollow threats.

        • redsandyanksfan 5 years ago

          I agree with the other guy Larid makes much more since you can get him on maybe a minor league deal ad is the second best defensive catcher and he 1000 innings thing is wash because its not like Larid will be starting

  7. Oh yeah! Marty was an infielder. Hah!

  8. I can guarantee you someone will give him at least a two year deal at around 8 to 10 million a year.

  9. bjsguess 5 years ago

    Seriously? Where can I take you up on that bet?

    Quick question for you – how many catchers are currently on a deal that pays them more than 2/$16?

    If AJ goes to arbitration the White Sox could easily be on the hook for $8m. On the FA market I bet he doesn’t beat $5m/year over a 2 year deal. If I were him, I would take my chances on the 1 year – hoping that in the next off-season I can do better than a 1/$2m deal.

    Answer to the question – 2 catchers currently have a contract that is at least 2 years and exceeds $8m/year. Joe Mauer and Jorge Posada. That’s why I’ll take that bet all day long.

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