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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly of the Red Sox Signing AJ Pierzynski

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The Red Sox are set to sign left-handed-hitting catcher AJ Pierzynski, pending a physical.  The deal is reported to be for one year/ $8.25 million.  With this signing, Jarrod Saltalamacchia will not be returning to the Red Sox, and Pierzynski will be in a tandem with catcher David Ross.

The Good:

  • Pierzynski is a career .283/.322/.428 hitter  At Fenway Park alone, he's a .322/.328/.424 hitter.  With Pierzynski hitting left-handed and Ross hitting right-handed, they will be a pitching tandem.  Unless an injury arises in either one, I can see Pierzynski and Ross splitting the catching responsibilities 50-50.
  • Last season, Pierzynski hit .272 with a .722 OPS with 17 home runs and 70 RBIs.  He started 111 games behind the plate for the Rangers.
  • Pierzynski will only be signed for a year.  Both Pierzynski and Ross will be 37 at the start of next season, and will only be signed through 2014.  Because of this, the Red Sox will not be blocking prospects Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart.  This will allow the prospects to develop properly by not rushing them up, and it won't block them when they are ready to join the team.

The Bad:

  • Pierzynski had a .297 OBP last season, drawing only 11 walks.  The Red Sox were great last season with getting men on base, any way possible (hit, walk, hit-by-pitch).  Hopefully, under the guide of manager John Farrell, Pierzynski's walk rate will rise.
  • While he has good numbers at Fenway Park, Pierzynski has not hit a home run there in his career.  Since 1998, Pierzynski has played for the Twins, White Sox, and Rangers, all American League teams.  That's numerous trips to Fenway without a home run.
  • As mentioned before, Pierzynski will be 37 years old next season, as will David Ross.  While I listed this as a good thing for the state of the Red Sox catching prospects, it is also a negative thing for the team.  Like most people, the older we get, the longer it tends to take to heal from an injury (compared to an early 20-something-year-old).  With two "older" baseball players behind the plate getting battered everyday (or every other day), it could be seen as a big risk.

The Ugly:

  • Pierzynski has a reputation of having a "difficult personality," and "difficult personality" may be an understatement.  Pierzynski is fiery, but not in the good way like we see from Jonny Gomes, David Ortiz, and Dustin Pedroia.  For the Red Sox part, they say Pierzysnki's personality is an overstatement.  Hopefully with this clubhouse, Pierzynski can tone-down his personality a bit or "use it for good."  
For an example of what the Red Sox are getting into with signing Pierzynski, here's a video from a Cubs-White Sox game in 2006, when Pierzynski was on the White Sox:

Lastly, I am happy to report that I feel like I did this article fairly un-biasly.  Out of all the MLB players, AJ Pierzynski ranks pretty low in my opinion of players, he may be in the bottom 5 actually. It's not just me either.  When I told my mom that the Red Sox were signing Pierzynski, her reaction was "Nooooooooo!"

I'm guessing most of my animosity falls back to all the years in Davenport, Iowa when I wanted to watch baseball and the only games that were televised were either White Sox or Cubs games.  Most of the time, I would watch White Sox games, since they were in the American League.  Pierzynski definitely had an bad attitude to him when he played, and I wasn't a fan of that.  Plus, I just wasn't a fan of the White Sox period.  Just hearing Hawk Harrelson saying "AJ" still makes me cringe.

Even though I'm not a fan of Pierzynski as a player, I think he does a really good job when he does analyst jobs in the post season.  This makes me feel really conflicted about him, since drives me crazy as a player.  But, I hope he continues analyzing after he retires from playing baseball.

I'm hoping that Pierzynski playing not he Red Sox will change the way fans, myself included, view Pierzynski.  Hopefully, Farrell and the other players and coaches can keep Pierzynski's volatile attitude in check.  Basically, the only thing I can say to sum up this signing is that I hope it works out.