A.J. Pierzynski Rumors

Quick Hits: Minor Leaguers, Cardinals, Yankees

A group of former minor leaguers has filed a lawsuit protesting that while they were playing, they received less than minimum wage and did not receive overtime, working for tiny monthly salaries to pursue their dream of making it to the Majors. Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star traveled to Clinton, Iowa as part of a long exposé on working conditions in the minor leagues. Class A players, for example, only make about $6,300 for an entire season, earning only per diems for instructional leagues and mandatory spring training. NBA and NHL minor leaguers make many times that amount. The extremely low wages for minor league baseball players might not be a hardship for early-round picks who receive six- or seven-figure bonuses, but they’re especially tough on the many players who sign for only a few thousand dollars. Here are more notes from around the game.

  • A number of Cardinals players were at Busch Stadium Friday to pack their belongings, with some players not knowing whether they’ll return next season, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes. 2014 was “up and down,” says Peter Bourjos, who made $1.2MM this season and is eligible for arbitration for the second time this winter. “Inconsistent playing time, inconsistent results — that’s how it goes sometimes. If there’s an opportunity out there, I’d like to play every day.” One player who sounds like he’ll certainly be returning is John Lackey, who says he has “every intention” of playing next season even though the Cardinals have an option on him for the league minimum salary. Also, impending free agent catcher A.J. Pierzynski says he’d like to continue playing. It’s unlikely that the Cardinals will re-sign him, however, with Yadier Molina and Tony Cruz at the catcher position.
  • Two years after their last playoff game, the Yankees‘ roster is dramatically different, Chad Jennings of the LoHud Yankees Blog writes. Of the 19 players Yankees who appeared in Game 4 of the 2012 ALCS, just four — Mark Teixeira, Brett Gardner, Alex Rodriguez and C.C. Sabathia — are under contract for 2015.

Central Links: Moore, Royals, Tigers, Cardinals

Though there’s been speculation that Royals GM Dayton Moore could be a possibility to take over the GM slot in Atlanta following Frank Wren’s dismissal, Royals owner David Glass told Jon Heyman of CBS Sports that Moore is “absolutely” staying with the Royals. Moore’s contract runs through 2016, but as Heyman and others have noted, it’d seem odd to leave town after getting the Royals to their first World Series in 29 years. Glass had nothing but praise for Moore: “He’s done a great job. He’s as good as it gets as far as a general manager.”

More news from baseball’s Central divisions…

  • MLB.com’s Jim Callis breaks down how the Royals constructed their World Series roster, noting that the club has 14 homegrown players (draft or international signing), nine acquired via waivers or trade and only two signed via free agency (Omar Infante and Jason Vargas). One could make the case that Jeremy Guthrie also belongs in the free agent category, as he technically hit the open market for a couple of weeks between the end of the 2012 season and re-signing in Kansas City. However, the most intriguing part of Callis’ piece, for MLBTR readers, may be a comment from Moore on the importance of Jake Odorizzi‘s role in the James Shields/Wade Davis trade: “…he also kept Yordano Ventura out of that deal at that time.”
  • MLive.com’s Chris Iott makes five predictions about the upcoming Tigers offseason in his latest piece, prognosticating that Detroit will not make a serious run at re-signing Max Scherzer, nor will it spend lavishly on its bullpen, perhaps adding one mid-range option at best. As he notes, the combined $17MM owed to Joe Nathan and Joakim Soria is already more than the $15.4MM the club spent on last year’s entire Opening Day bullpen. Iott does, however, foresee a re-signing of Victor Martinez. For his last two predictions, he expects an internal competition for the fifth starter slot and that one (or both) or Andy Dirks and Don Kelly will be non-tendered, based on recent comments from GM Dave Dombrowski. Bottom line: he expects Detroit to spend on retaining Martinez and acquiring a center fielder rather than on the bullpen or rotation.
  • The Cardinals aren’t likely to re-sign any of their five free agents, writes MLB.com’s Jen Langosch. That means that Justin Masterson, A.J. Pierzynski, Mark Ellis and perhaps most notably, lifetime Cardinal Jason Motte and the resurgent Pat Neshek are ticketed for new jerseys. Neshek is probably the most intriguing of the bunch, as the 34-year-old signed a minor league deal last offseason but earned an All-Star nod en route to a final ERA of 1.87 in 67 1/3 innings with 9.1 K/9 and 1.2 BB/9.

Quick Hits: Montero, Astros, Pierzynski

Jesus Montero was at the center of a bizarre situation on Thursday night, as MILB.com’s Tyler Maun reports.  While on a rehab assignment at Seattle’s short-season class A affiliate, Montero reportedly had to be restrained from going after a Mariners crosschecker with a bat after the scout reportedly sent an ice cream sandwich to the dugout.  Butch Baccala, the crosschecker in question, tells Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times that the incident is “not what is being portrayed,” though he didn’t want to comment further until speaking with Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik.

  • There is discord between Astros GM Jeff Luhnow and manager Bo Porter, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports, and things may have gotten bad enough that “it’s difficult to imagine the Astros starting the 2015 season with the same management team.”  Porter feels he doesn’t have enough input in the team’s plans and Luhnow too often second-guesses his in-game decisions, plus there were some hard feelings over Mark Appel‘s bullpen session at Minute Maid Park last month.
  • Yadier Molina‘s return shouldn’t end A.J. Pierzynski‘s stint with the Cardinals, FOX Sports Midwest’s Stan McNeal writes.  Molina will need to be eased into his usual workload behind the plate, and with rosters expanding, the Cards will have room for three catchers (Tony Cruz being the third).  Pierzynski has also been a fit in the Cardinals’ clubhouse following the drama that marked his exit from Boston.
  • The Braves were the other finalist for right-hander Brandon Poulson, Baseball America’s Bob Padecky reports.  Poulson ended up signing a $250K bonus with the Twins, capping off a fairly incredible route to pro baseball for the 6’7″ fireballer.
  • Commissioner-elect Rob Manfred figures to differ from Bud Selig in several areas, and ESPN’s Jayson Stark outlines some of the areas that Manfred will focus on when he officially takes over the job.


AL East Notes: Victorino, Price, Lester, Yanks, Johnson

The Red Sox announced tonight that outfielder Shane Victorino underwent a season-ending lumbar disectomy surgery. The 33-year-old appeared in just 30 games for the BoSox this season, slashing .268/.303/.382 with two homers and two steals. Clearly, the second year of his three-year, $39MM contract with the Red Sox didn’t pan out as well as the first — which was arguably the finest season of his entire career. Though his contract was widely panned at the time of the signing, Victorino silenced critics by batting .294/.351/.451 with 15 homers, 21 steals and elite outfield defense — all of which combined to total more than 5.5 wins above replacement.

Here’s more from the AL East…

  • David Lennon of Newsday tweets that the Red Sox and Rays both received permission from their owners to trade their left-handed aces to any team in baseball, with one exception: the Yankees.
  • The injury to David Phelps should push the Yankees back into the starting pitching market, writes Mike Axisa of River Ave. Blues. As he notes, the case can be made that the Yankees’ five best starting options — Phelps, Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova and Michael Pineda — are all on the disabled list at this time.
  • Allowing Matt Thornton to be claimed by the Nationals saved the Yankees about $1MM in 2014 salary and $3.5MM in 2015 salary, and Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets that the Yankees could redirect some of those savings to add some pieces this month. New York is working on some potential additions already, says Rosenthal. GM Brian Cashman is “open to anything that makes [the Yankees] better,” he tells MLB.com’s Jake Kring-Schreifels.
  • The Orioles had interest in adding former closer Jim Johnson on a minor league deal, writes Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com, but they felt they didn’t have room to add him to the big league squad until rosters expand in September. Manager Buck Showalter tells Kubatko that he expressed that point to Johnson in multiple phone conversations
  • Former Red Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski tells Sean McAdam of CSNNE.com that while he assumes that many people will expect him to be bitter toward Boston, he has no hard feelings toward the organization or his former teammates (even those who have spoken against him since his departure). Pierzynski said he didn’t ask for a reason when he was DFAed, although he wasn’t exactly expecting the move. He also offers high praise for his brief time with the Cardinals and briefly discusses the difficulty of a catcher transitioning pitching staffs midseason.

Cardinals To Sign A.J. Pierzynski

The Cardinals have agreed to a deal with free agent catcher A.J. Pierzynski, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (via Twitter). Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch first reported that the sides were moving towards an agreement, with Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reporting that Pierzynski would be joining the team tomorrow in Chicago.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Tampa Bay Rays

Pierzynski, 37, signed with the Red Sox before the season for one year and $8.25MM. But he never seemed to mesh in the clubhouse and, perhaps more importantly, failed to replicate his usual success at the plate. He hit just four home runs in 274 plate appearances and slashed a substandard .254/.286/.348. That was a far cry from his production over the prior two seasons, when he hit a combined 44 home runs and slashed .275/.311/.462.

Of course, for St. Louis, the signing represents an attempt to fill the void left by the injured Yadier Molina, who is expected to be out until at least the tail end of the regular season. Pickings were fairly slim on the trade market, with Kurt Suzuki of the Twins representing perhaps the most likely option. It remains unclear how playing time will be allocated between Pierzynski and usual backup Tony Cruz, but it seems likely that Pierzynski will see plenty of action down the stretch.

The deal will presumably no relief for the Red Sox, who will avoid only the pro-rated league minimum salary while paying Pierzynski the rest of his promised $8.25MM. The veteran will have a chance to boost his numbers — and do so during what seems likely to be a tight division race — before once again hitting the open market next year.

Meanwhile, the Twins will presumably need to look elsewhere if they desire to deal Suzuki, with the Orioles representing perhaps the only obvious landing spot. The Dodgers appear to be another team that could conceivably look to upgrade behind the plate, though it is far from clear that Suzuki would offer much of an upgrade and other potentially available backstops would take persuading to pry free. All said, it looks as if the catching market will not see much movement in advance of July 31.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Images.


Cardinals Close To Signing A.J. Pierzynski

8:46pm: Pierzynski is already in Chicago and will join the Cardinals tomorrow, tweets Rosenthal. An announcement is expected before tomorrow’s game, which starts at 1:05pm CST, according to a tweet from Goold.

8:33pm: A deal appears to be close, Goold reports, with Pierzynski leaving a visit to Cooperstown for induction weekend, per Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (via Twitter). Goold indicates that Pierzynski seems to be headed to meet the club in Chicago. Meanwhile, Kottaras has cleared his locker and left the club, though the precise transaction involving him remains unclear.

8:09pm: The Cardinals are working on a deal with free agent catcher A.J. Pierzynski, reports Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (via Twitter). The recently-added George Kottaras would be the odd man out if a deal gets done, which Goold seemingly implies is likely.

Pierzynski was recently released by the Red Sox after struggling for much of the year. His line stands at .254/.286/.348 on the year, including only four long balls in his 274 plate appearances. That fell well short of the production that Boston expected when it landed Pierzynski on a one-year, $8.25MM deal.

St. Louis, of course, would presumably add Pierzynski at a league-minimum rate, leaving the Red Sox to pick up the rest of the tab on the backstop. The club seems in need of an additional option behind the plate after losing Yadier Molina for a significant stretch. Tony Cruz has seen the bulk of the action since Molina went down.

Of course, a move on Pierzynski would also have fallout on the rest of the trade deadline catching market. In particular, the team with the most obvious trade piece behind the dish — the Twins, who field veteran Kurt Suzuki — would lose a strong potential suitor. A report earlier today suggested that the Cardinals (along with the Orioles) were interested in the first-time All-Star.


Cafardo On Price, Cardinals, Hamels, Benoit

In today’s column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe wonders if the Red Sox will succumb to fan pressure and re-sign Jon Lester.   Lester turned down a four-year, $70MM offer from the Red Sox in spring training and other clubs will almost certainly offer six- or seven-year deals if he reaches the open market.  Boston, of course, doesn’t want to go that far.  “If that’s your philosophy you can’t make exceptions or it will be viewed as a joke,” said one American League general manager. “If you vary from it, that sends a weak message to the baseball community, agents etc., when it comes with dealing with other players. I think the players themselves need to know where you stand as an organization, and if you keep deviating that sends the wrong message.”  Here’s more from today’s column..

  • The Mariners don’t mind dealing for Rays ace David Price without an agreement in place for a long-term deal, but that’s not the case for everyone. The Cardinals are interested in Price but would want a financial commitment, a major league source tells Cafardo.   Cafardo cautions not to rule out the Giants, who also have had interest in Ben Zobrist.
  • The Phillies have been discouraged by what they’re hearing from other teams on Cole Hamels.  The Phillies consider him their biggest trade chip, but will hold on to him if they don’t get what they consider a fair deal. The Red Sox sent their top pitching scout to watch the hurler before the break and the Phillies have scouted Boston’s major and minor league teams all season. One major league source said if the Phillies get a taker on the full contract and they get three top prospects, he’s gone, and Hamels, according to another major league source, wouldn’t mind.
  • Joaquin Benoit is one of the most sought after relievers on the market but a Padres official tells Cafardo that they won’t just give him away.
  • Chad Qualls has resurrected his career with the Astros and teams are calling on him, according to a major league source.  Houston left-hander Tony Sipp has also drawn interest.
  • A.J. Pierzynski, who cleared waivers Friday, has told agent Steve Hilliard that he would like to continue playing.

Red Sox Release A.J. Pierzynski

JULY 16: The Red Sox announced that they have released Pierzyski.

JULY 9: The Red Sox are set to designate catcher A.J. Pierzynski for assignment, sources tell Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (via Twitter). The 37-year-old veteran signed a one-year, $8.25MM deal to join Boston over the past offseason.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Tampa Bay Rays

Needless to say, things did not work out as hoped for the club or the player. Pierzynski owns a .254/.286/.348 line through 274 plate appearances with just four home runs. He had produced at a .275/.311/.462 clip with 44 total long balls over the 2012-13 campaigns.

The veteran could still hold appeal to clubs looking for options behind the dish. As MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes recently explored, the trade market includes relatively few available, attractive veteran backstops. Unless the Sox can find a taker for some of his remaining salary, they will eat the approximately $3.6MM left on Pierzynski’s contract.

Parting with Pierzynski could well be the first step towards at least a partial break-up of a Red Sox team that has fallen well off its World Series from of a year ago. Sitting 10 and a half games out of the division lead, the Red Sox will give a chance to youngster Christian Vazquez, who will learn on the job with help from veteran backup David Ross.

In an appearance on WEEI radio (Twitter links via WEEI.com’s Alex Speier), manager John Farrell confirmed that the club is aiming for something of a youth movement. “We’re turning the page in terms of investing in young players,” he said. Indeed, Vazquez will be one of five rookies in the lineup card for the club tonight, as Tim Britton of the Providence Journal tweets.


AL East Notes: Red Sox, Pierzynski, O’s, Tanaka, Beltran

The day after designating $8.25MM catcher A.J. Pierzynski for assignment, the Red Sox have done some looking back and looking forward. The embattled veteran was a source of clubhouse discord, reports Rob Bradford of WEEI.com. Meanwhile, Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal writes that Pierzynski’s original one-year signing, and his ultimate DFA, fit with the club’s long-term plans behind the dish. GM Ben Cherington acknowledged that his club was in an “unusual spot,” as Jason Mastrodonato of MassLive.com reports“We believe we can win games with [Pierzynski replacement] Christian [Vazquez] behind the plate,” he said. “It is also an investment in him. We’re in an usual spot. We’re just gong to have to see what the rest of the month brings us, if we go on a run and our outlook changes.”

Here’s more on Pierzynski, the Red Sox, and the rest of the AL East:

  • Cherington said that, going forward, the focus for the Red Sox will be on adding offense. “I still believe a lot of that is going to come from guys already here,” he said. “But clearly offense has been an issue. We’d like to add to the offense, so we’re going to look for ways to do that whether that’s now or after the season or both. We’ve got to find ways to improve the offense.”
  • Pierzynski says that he will “go anywhere,” reports Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN (via Twitter). Though the Twins had made him a two-year offer during the offseason, Wolfson says he’d be surprised if Minnesota looks to bring him back at this point.
  • It is easy to imagine several teams being interested in taking a chance on Pierzynski’s bat returning to its 2013 levels, but the Orioles will not be one of them, according to Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com (Twitter link). Three internal sources told Kubatko that Baltimore has no interest in the controversial backstop in spite of its lack of offense at the position. Not only that, but executive VP Dan Duquette tells Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun that the team is generally happy with the club’s backstop duo of Caleb Joseph and Nick Hundley (in addition to the left-handed-hitting Steve Clevenger, stashed at Triple-A).
  • As noted earlier on the site, one player that the Orioles do have interest in is lefty Jorge De La Rosa of the Rockies, as Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports. In another piece, Connolly further discusses the O’s situation at the trade deadline, explaining that the team seems unlikely to add a top-of-the-rotation arm. For his part, Kubatko reasons that Baltimore may have some difficult decisions to make if it tries to plug a new arm into the club, as Kevin Gausman has been expected to take a rotation spot going forward. As both reporters note, a bullpen addition — especially a late-inning option — definitely seems to be a possibility.
  • Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka will fly to Seattle to see team doctor Christopher Ahmad, tweets MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch. Fellow orthopedist Dr. Neal ElAttrache — often consulted on elbow issues — is at the same conference as Ahmad and could also see Tanaka, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post (Twitter links). Notably, ElAttrache was the doctor who performed a physical on Tanaka that was shared with the rest of the league by the pitcher’s representatives.
  • Meanwhile, the Yankees are also waiting to hear whether outfielder Carlos Beltran will need to miss any time due to two small fractures in and around his nose, tweets Hoch. He sustained the injury in a freak batting practice accident yesterday.

AL East Links: Balfour, Price, Drew, BoSox

Grant Balfour is no longer the Rays‘ closer, as manager Joe Maddon told reporters (including Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times) that his team is moving to a closer committee.  The demotion comes as no surprise following Balfour’s rough performance on Sunday, when he allowed the Mariners to score five runs in the ninth inning.  Balfour has struggled badly this season, posting a 6.46 ERA and recording almost as many walks (20) as strikeouts (21) over 23 2/3 innings of work.  The 36-year-old signed a two-year, $12MM free agent contract with Tampa in the offseason.  If you have Balfour on a fantasy team, stay tuned to @CloserNews (MLBTR’s save-centric sister Twitter account) to keep tabs on the Rays’ bullpen and other late-game situations throughout baseball.

Here’s some more from the AL East…

  • The Rays could be sellers at the trade deadline, and Fangraphs’ Eno Sarris looks at some of the club’s veteran pieces with a particular focus on David Price.  While Tampa Bay will rightly seek a big prospect haul for Price, Sarris notes the difficulty in finding a contender (especially outside the AL East) who has the necessary minor league depth to swing a trade.  Sarris also notes that a fire sale seems unlikely, as the Rays will still look to contend in 2015.
  • Peter Gammons discussed several Red Sox topics in an interview on the Dennis & Callahan radio show this morning (WEEI.com’s Conor Ryan has a partial transcript).  While Gammons doesn’t think the Red Sox regret signing the struggling Stephen Drew, “there are so many political angles at play here that you’ve just got to wonder, ‘€˜What are they going to be a year from now?”  Gammons believes the Boston media’s criticisms of Xander Bogaerts‘ ability to play short pressured the club to re-sign Drew, whereas Gammons felt the Red Sox should’ve acquired an outfielder instead.
  • Gammons doesn’t see the Red Sox becoming major sellers if they fall out of the race because they want pitchers like Jon Lester and John Lackey back in 2015 and also “just because of the nature of the Boston fans and because of the nature of the market and because of NESN.”  A.J. Pierzynski could potentially become a trade chip if the Sox fell far enough out of a playoff spot, which would open the door for Christian Vasquez to get called up and gain some big league experience.
  • Red Sox GM Ben Cherington won’t make moves for the sake of making moves, John Tomase of the Boston Herald writes, as the current roster will have to prove its worth as a contender over the next six weeks to convince the front office to pursue upgrades.
  • Orioles executive VP of baseball operations Dan Duquette appeared on Middays With MFB today (again, tip of the cap to WEEI.com’s Conor Ryan) and said that trade talk around the league is slow since so many teams are still technically in contention.  “There aren’t many sellers, from what I can tell. Usually after the draft, which was just completed, teams will start calling around, but I only know that there’€™s just a couple of sellers right now….It’€™s going to be challenging to add to the team,” Duquette said.
  • The Yankees should look to shake up their struggling lineup by getting rid of Brian Roberts and Alfonso Soriano, Mike Axisa of the River Ave Blues blog opines.  Since Derek Jeter won’t be moved down in the lineup due to his stature, Axisa suggests that Jeter actually become the leadoff hitter in order to have the Yankees’ best four hitters (Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury, Mark Teixeira, Yangervis Solarte) all hit in a row.