Chicago White Sox: Why Bringing A.J. Pierzynski Back Is a Must
The Chicago White Sox have serious decisions to make regarding a few players as the MLB free-agency period prepares to get underway. Catcher A.J. Pierzynski is at the top of a list that will include Jake Peavy, Kevin Youkilis and Brett Myers once the White Sox buy out those contracts.
Pierzynski is a must-sign and his importance to the White Sox is impossible to overstate.
Not only did the 35-year-old hit .278, but he clobbered a career best 27 home runs and tied a career-high with 77 RBI. Additionally, Pierzynski caught over 1,000 innings for the 12th consecutive season, threw out 26 percent of would-be base stealers and was critical in the development of an extremely young pitching staff.
There are significant barriers to Pierzynski resigning and money is, most certainly, the greatest obstacle.
Finances for the team are tight, but there is some hope that the two sides may be able to reach an agreement that would keep him with the team. John Heyman, from CBSSports.com, suggested Wednesday that $16 million over two years may be enough to keep Pierzynski on the South Side.
There is a precedent for hope.
Heyman noted that the L.A. Dodgers actually outbid the Sox two years ago for Pierzynki’s services, yet he chose to stay in Chicago due to his fondness for the city and his relationship with owner Jerry Reinsdorf.
Let’s hope that remains the case because if Pierzynski leaves via free agency, the White Sox are in trouble for two reasons.
2. The Free-Agent Market Is Thin and Overpriced
The free-agent market for catchers going into the offseason is limited and what is available will come at a very steep price. Mike Napoli, Chris Iannetta and Brian McCann are among the available catchers expected to receive lucrative contracts when the free-agent signing period begins.
Napoli, projected to earn $30 million over three years, is too expensive, while Iannetta and McCann are no better than Pierzynski and would likely cost as much. The White Sox are in no position to overpay someone or to make a lateral move at the position.
Lower-end alternatives include Miguel Olivo and Jose Molina, but their offensive production and the tender nature of the White Sox pitching staff raise serious concerns.
One of the problems with the market for catchers this year is that too many teams need the few that are available. That is sure to make it difficult for the White Sox to find a catcher capable of replacing Pierzynski from outside the organization.
1. The White Sox Have No Viable Options Already in Place
Of more concern for the White Sox is that no one within the organization is ready to step in and take Pierzynski’s spot.
Tyler Flowers is not the answer.
He struck out 56 times in 136 plate appearances this past season and, although he is solid behind the plate, the White Sox cannot afford another hole in their lineup.
Worse yet, minor league options are nearly nonexistent for the White Sox.
Triple-A catcher Hector Gimenez is hardly capable of being a backup catcher, let alone a starter, and the trio of backstops at Double-A are either journeymen or too young to make an impact.
As it stands, an in-house replacement would be the worst-case scenario for the team.