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A.J. Pierzynski Rumors
Earlier today, MLBTR posted the latest news and notes on the Nationals. Let’s now take a look at the other teams in the NL East:
- If A.J. Pierzynski‘s Spring Training looks like a continuation of his subpar 2014 season, he may not make the Braves‘ Opening Day roster, writes Fangraphs’ David Laurila in his latest Sunday Notes column. Pierzynski and the Braves agreed to a one-year, $2MM deal on Christmas Eve.
- The Phillies will spend considerably less on their starting pitching in 2015 and the rotation may actually be better, opines Corey Seidman of CSNPhilly.com.
- With the Braves and Phillies prioritizing years beyond 2015, the New York Post’s Joel Sherman surveyed seven baseball executives representing all six MLB divisions whether the Marlins or the Mets will be the Nationals‘ primary challenger this season. A split decision of 4-3 favored the Marlins.
DEC. 26: Pierzynski will earn exactly $2MM, and his contract contains an additional $700K worth of incentives, tweets Bob Nightengale of USA Today.
DEC. 24, 2:01pm: Pierzynski is expected to earn around $2MM in the deal, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets.
1:50pm: The Braves have reached a one-year deal with free agent catcher A.J. Pierzynski, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports on Twitter. Financial terms are not yet reported, and the deal will not become official until a physical that will be delayed by the holidays.
Soon to turn 38, Pierzynski played last year for the Red Sox and Cardinals, struggling to the lowest offensive output of his career. The veteran slashed just .251/.288/.337 and hit five home runs in 362 plate appearances. Advanced defensive metrics (via Baseball Prospectus) saw Pierzynski as slightly below average. The net package was below replacement level.
All that being said, Pierzynski has a lengthy history of solid-to-good output for his position. His lifetime slash of .281/.320/.424 is quite productive for a backstop, and he was good for an .827 OPS and 27 home runs as recent as 2012. Pierzynski has also generally been regarded as a sturdy option behind the dish, both in terms of defensive ability and (especially) durability.
It is ultimately not surprising to see the Braves add a veteran of this ilk. The team appears set to move Evan Gattis out from behind the plate (if not to another team altogether), and pairing well-regarded youngster Christian Bethancourt with a more established option makes plenty of sense.
If Pierzynski returns to his prior form, he could help lead a surprise run for a team that many have written off. Or, he could turn into July trade fodder. Of course, there may be some added risk given the frequent chatter about issues with Pierzynski’s personality. But that likely figured into the price tag, and he delivers scarce upside in a largely barren catching market.
Aaron Lunsford first tweeted news of Pierzynski’s agreement.
ESPN’s Jayson Stark took a look at the Cole Hamels trade market and spoke to Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. about the possibility of trading the ace. Amaro took a familiar stance, stating that he’s not under any pressure to move Hamels, whom he rightly deemed one of baseball’s best starters. Rival execs tell Stark that Amaro is still asking for two premium prospects plus another piece or two in addition to the acquiring club taking on Hamels’ entire contract. As Stark notes, it’s unfortunate that a rebuilding club’s best chip is an ace in an offseason where free agency and the trade market are both pitching-rich. With next season shaping up to be a buyer’s market for pitching as well, Stark wonders if July will be the best time for Amaro to move Hamels, as few aces are ever available at the deadline. Multiple clubs have told Stark that Amaro is holding out for “the deal of the century,” as Stark terms it.
Two items of particular note from Stark are that the Blue Jays are said to have very strong interest in Hamels and that reports of Hamels’ no-trade clause are not entirely accurate. Hamels can indeed block trades to eight clubs, but previous reports listed the Cubs, Dodgers, Cardinals, Nats, Braves, Padres, Yankees and Rangers as teams to which Hamels cannot veto a deal. Stark hears that list is outdated, and at least one club has been changed since season’s end.
Some other late-night NL East notes…
- Reports have indicated that the Marlins are serious about adding pieces to contend in 2015 this offseason, and while the focus has been more on bats for the lineup, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports (via Twitter) that the Fish have reached out to the Tigers to inquire on David Price and Rick Porcello. Talks aren’t serious at this time, he adds, but the fact that the Marlins are even kicking the tires on a pair of high-priced arms (Price and Porcello project to earn $18.9MM and $12.2MM next year, respectively) suggests that they’re willing to take on some significant payroll.
- The Braves are interested in a reunion with backstop David Ross, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s David O’Brien reported yesterday (Twitter link). Ross spent four seasons as Brian McCann‘s backup in Atlanta from 2009-12, enjoying some of the most productive seasons of his career as a Brave. He could serve as an excellent mentor to Christian Bethancourt, who figures to take the reins as Atlanta’s everyday catcher with Evan Gattis moving to the outfield full time.
- MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports another potential catching target for the Braves, tweeting that they have interest in A.J. Pierzynski. The soon-to-be 38-year-old Pierzynski has never had Ross’ defensive chops, though he’d give the Braves a left-handed bat to insert in the lineup when they prefer to rest Bethancourt against tough right-handers.
- The Mets are interested in lefty reliever Craig Breslow, tweets Morosi. The Mets are thin on left-handed relief, and Breslow should represent a low-cost option. The 34-year-old picked a poor time to have a career-worst season, pitching to a 5.96 ERA this past season in a contract year. However, he entered the 2014 campaign with a career 2.82 ERA in 402 innings. Breslow doesn’t dominate lefties the way many specialists do (.671 OPS), but he’s also more effective against right-handed hitters than a number of his southpaw brethren (.680 OPS).
The Dodgers‘ front office shakeup isn’t over yet. As Mark Saxon of ESPN Los Angeles reported first, the Dodgers announced that they have hired Gabe Kapler as their farm director and Padres scouting director Billy Gasparino as their new director of amateur scouting (All Twitter links). Additionally, the team will hire Red Sox special assignment scout Galen Carr, per Saxon, though his role in the Dodgers’ front office is yet unreported. The Dodgers, of course, have already poached Andrew Friedman from the Rays (president of baseball ops) and Farhan Zaidi from the A’s (GM) in addition to hiring former Padres/D’Backs GM Josh Byrnes as their new senior VP of baseball ops. The new-look group is made up of some of the most respected executives from around the game.
Here’s more from the game’s Western divisions…
- On a conference call with Padres season-ticket holders last night, general manager A.J. Preller spoke candidly about the team’s interest in Cuban slugger Yasmany Tomas (Twitter link): “We’ve had the chance to see Yasmany Tomas and we’re in the process of determining his value for the Padres. We’re in the game.” San Diego has been said to be one of the front-runners for Tomas, and he’d certainly provide the team with some much-needed offense if he lives up to the hype surrounding him.
- The Rangers will be on the lookout for a backup catcher to pair with Robinson Chirinos this offseason, writes MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan. Sullivan looks at the crop of free agents and notes that A.J. Pierzynski, Gerald Laird and J.P. Arencibia have all played with the Rangers in the past, but he wonders if the team will spend a bit more money on a name like Nick Hundley rather than bringing in familiar faces.
- The Angels announced today that they have promoted Mike LaCassa to assistant director of player development and promoted Jonathan Strangio to manager of Major League Operations (Twitter link).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.