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A.J. Pierzynski Rumors
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Red Sox, who are in the midst of an eight-game losing streak, look like a different team than last year’s edition, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes. The team has lost players like Jacoby Ellsbury and Jarrod Saltalamacchia who contributed big hits this year, while some newer ones, like Jackie Bradley and Grady Sizemore, have struggled. In any case, Cafardo suggests, the 2014 edition doesn’t seem to have the same spark the 2013 team did. Here are more notes from the American League East.
- A.J. Pierzynski symbolizes the Red Sox’ problems so far this season, John Tomase of the Boston Herald writes. Many players dislike Pierzynski, and Tomase wonders what it might mean that, when the Red Sox signed Pierzynski, one rarely heard that his teammates disputed his notorious reputation throughout the game. Even in his short time with the Red Sox, there has been “tension” between Pierzynski and Red Sox pitchers. Pierzynski is also hitting just .258/.291/.356 in his first 142 plate appearances. The Red Sox signed him to a one-year, $8.25MM deal last offseason.
- With Esmil Rogers now gone, and Jeremy Jeffress and Moises Sierra gone as well, the Blue Jays‘ roster is now based on “merit rather than asset management,” SportsNet.ca’s Shi Davidi writes. With the Blue Jays now in first place in the AL East, the team can no longer wait for players like Rogers to harness their potential. “It’s fun being on a winning team,” says infielder Steven Tolleson. “All of us want to be in the lineup every day, but all of us understand how we contribute to this team.”
ESPN's Jayson Stark spoke with Twins first baseman Joe Mauer about the transition from catching everyday to becoming a regular first baseman. Stark also spoke with several instructors around Twins camp, including Hall of Famer Paul Molitor and three-time All-Star Terry Steinbach, about the changes facing Mauer and what can be expected of him going forward. Stark puts Mauer's transition into some surprising historical context, noting that Joe Torre is the only player in Major League history to log 300+ games at another position after catching his 900th game. Mauer has some experience at first, having started 54 games there over the past few seasons, but admits that those games aren't the same: "You know, the last few seasons, when I’d get out there, it was kind of a day off from catching, and it was kind of like, go out there and do your best. But now, it’s your job. So you’d better do it right."
Here are some more Twins links for your Thursday afternoon…
- Agent Damon Lapa, who represents second baseman Brian Dozier and right-hander Kevin Correia, is expected to be in Twins camp this weekend and will have informal extension discussions with assistant GM Rob Antony, tweets Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. In a second tweet, Berardino quotes Dozier, who broke out in 2013 with a 3.8 rWAR/2.8 fWAR season, as saying: "The Twins have done it before. Those can benefit both sides. We're still open to the idea."
- While Spring Training has been kind to Chris Parmelee in the past, MLB.com's Rhett Bollinger notes that this time around is quite a bit different for the former first-round pick. Parmelee is out of options and knows that with Mauer penciled in as the everyday first baseman and the corner outfield spots likely full, his role on the club could be diminished. Parmelee was one of the players that Tim Dierkes and I examined in today's post on AL Central players that are out of options.
- While much was made of the Twins' pursuit of Jarrod Saltalamacchia this winter, Antony tells Berardino that A.J. Pierzynski was "no doubt" the team's No. 1 catching target this offseason. Pierzynski himself said back in December that the Twins made him a two-year offer. Antony said he wouldn't rule out pursuing Pierzynski in the future and has no hard feelings that he didn't take Minnesota's recent offer: "I understand; he got a chance to join the world champs. A.J. is a competitor. I don't think it was an easy decision. He told a lot of people that: 'God, I would have loved to come back to Minnesota. This was a tough decision to make.'"
The latest out of the AL East as today's Winter Meetings news heats up…
- ESPN's Jayson Stark tweets that the Rays are interested in Mitch Moreland of the Rangers and notes that a swap of Moreland and Matt Joyce is a possibility. That scenario hasn't gained much traction to this point, however, according to Stark (Twitter links).
- MLB.com's Brittany Ghiroli was among the reporters to speak with Orioles manager Buck Showalter, and she reports that the O's aren't interested in Raul Ibanez but do have some interest in Gavin Floyd (Twitter link).
- Top Yankees prospects such as Tyler Austin, Slade Heathcott and Mason Williams have seen their stock fall precipitously in the past year, diminishing New York's ability to make trades, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post. One Cubs official told Sherman, "The Yankees have no upper-level talent," when asked about potential trades between the two clubs.
- Also from Sherman's piece, right-hander Tommy Kahnle and lefty Fred Lewis are candidates to be selected in Thursday's Rule 5 Draft. Kahnle was among the Yankees' most sought-after players in July trade talks but was left off the 40-man roster.
- Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe spoke with A.J. Pierzynski, who told him that the Twins offered him a two-year deal to return to Minnesota, but he couldn't pass up on the opportunity to play for the Red Sox (Twitter link).
- Joh Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle spoke with a high-ranking Yankees official who told him there haven't been any discussions between the Yanks and Giants about New York's outfielders at the Winter Meetings (Twitter link).
The Red Sox have prioritized landing a catcher on a short-term deal this offseason so as not to block the paths of prospects Blake Swihart and Christian Vazquez, and they accomplished that goal by landing A.J. Pierzynski. Boston officially announced a one-year deal for Pierzynski today. Pierzynski, who is represented by agent Steve Hilliard of Octagon, will reportedly receive an $8.25MM guarantee on his one-year pact.
Terms are not yet known on Pierzynski's contract, but it's fair to suggest he could find two years with Carlos Ruiz getting three and Dioner Navarro getting two. Pierzynski, 37 later this month, signed a one-year deal with the Rangers last offseason and went on to hit .272/.297/.425 with 17 home runs in 529 plate appearances. As MLBTR's Steve Adams mentioned in Pierzynski's free agent profile, he offers good power for the position and has displayed perhaps the best durability behind the dish in baseball. Pierzynski will be paired with David Ross in Boston. The contract represents the first free agent deal of the offseason for the World Champion Red Sox, who still need to address first base at the least with Mike Napoli a free agent. The Twins and Blue Jays were reportedly among the other teams showing interest in Pierzynski this offseason.
Pierzynski is already the seventh catcher to sign a Major League deal, following Brian McCann (Yankees), Carlos Ruiz (Phillies), Dioner Navarro (Blue Jays), Jose Molina (Rays), Brayan Pena (Reds), and Francisco Pena (Royals). Saltalamacchia now appears the only starting option on the free agent market, though it's possible the newly non-tendered J.P. Arencibia could get significant playing time with a new team in 2014. In addition, the Reds seem likely to trade Ryan Hanigan.
Jon Heyman of CBS Sports first reported the agreement. Sean McAdam of Comcast Sports Net New England reported that it was a one-year deal (via Twitter), and ESPN's Buster Olney reported the $8.25MM value (also on Twitter).
Steve Adams contributed to this post. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Justin Morneau sounded certain in stating that he will one day return to the Twins in some capacity but acknowledged that it's not likely to be in 2014, writes Phil Miller of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Said Morneau: "There’s no saying I won’t be back in the future. You never know what the opportunity is going to be, whether it’s as a player, later, or as a coach, or someone who comes down to spring training. Whatever it is, it’s a different chapter, but [Minnesota] is something that will stick with me forever." Morneau made his first Twin Cities public appearance since being traded over the weekend, signing autographs and thanking fans for donating to a drive that raised more than 3,000 coats for the Salvation Army. Morneau told Miller that he's spoken recently with longtime teammate and friend Michael Cuddyer, who put in a good word for the Rockies. More on the Twins…
- The Twins have asked their newest acquisition, Ricky Nolasco, about his former catcher John Buck, tweets Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. The Twins have reportedly moved on from the Jarrod Saltalamacchia sweepstakes and will deploy Josmil Pinto as their primary catcher in 2014.
- Though Minnesota had just three arbitration eligible players this offseason (all of whom were tendered contracts), they could have as many as nine next winter, writes Berardino. Berardino looks at the potential arbitration classes for the next three offseasons, noting of course that not every player included on his lists will accumulate the necessary service time to reach arbitration.
- Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweeted yesterday that age was a big factor for the Twins in signing Phil Hughes to a surprising three-year, $24MM contract. The Twins are hopeful that they can fix Hughes up and thereby make him an important piece of improved teams in 2015-16 while he's still in his prime years.
- The Twins were "a close second" in the bidding for A.J. Pierzynski, according to La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune (on Twitter). Pierzynski agreed to a one-year, $8.25MM contract with the Red Sox earlier today.
As many of the same teams appear to be in on both A.J. Pierzynski and Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and several signings having left these two at the top of this year's remaining free agent catching crop, let's look at a few notes on the two backstops:
- The Twins are no longer pursuing Pierzynski, a major league official told Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press (Twitter link). Minnesota has been heavily rumored to be chasing a veteran backstop after deciding to shift Joe Mauer to first. Recently, we had heard that the Twins were "making progress" on bringing Pierzynski back to Minnesota, but that appears no longer to be the case.
- Minnesota has also been rumored to be looking at Saltalamacchia, and Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reports that they are still in the mix. The other two front-runners for Salty are the Marlins and Red Sox, according to Jackson.
- Indeed, Miami recently made an offer to Saltalamacchia, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (via Twitter). The terms of the offer are not known. As Rosenthal notes, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com previously reported that the Red Sox offered Saltalamacchia a two-year deal to return to Boston.