Report: Boston Red Sox Sign Catcher A.J. Pierzynski

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Report: Boston Red Sox Sign Catcher A.J. Pierzynski
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Pierzynski likely replaces Saltalamacchia in Boston.

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports has tweeted that the Boston Red Sox have signed free-agent catcher A.J. Pierzynski to a deal. 

Sean McAdam of CSN New England reports that the deal is only for one year. The Red Sox's ablity to sign Pierzynski to just a one-year deal is somewhat of a surprise, given the recent run on catchers receiving multi-year deals this winter. It's a good low-risk move for the Red Sox. 

The 36-year-old Pierzynski, who will turn 37 this month, is coming off of a down season with the Texas Rangers. Pierzynski started to show some signs of decline, most notably posting the lowest OBP (.297) of his career in 2013 with the Rangers. He still managed to hit 17 home runs and knock in 70 runs, meaning that he should provide solid offense for the Red Sox. 

Durability has been one of Periznski's career strengths, as he has appeared in more than 120 games in each of the past 12 seasons. The Red Sox know that Pierzynski will play through minor injuries during the course of the season. 

However, Pierzynski's plate discipline may be an issue, with the veteran catcher only walking 11 times in 503 at-bats last season. The Red Sox like to work the count against opposing teams, meaning Pierzynski could be an odd fit in that regard. 

There are three immediate takeaways from the deal from the point of view of the Red Sox.

First, Boston must feel that top prospects Blake Swihart and Christian Vazquez are both getting very close to being able to help at the major league level next season, with Vazquez potentially reaching the majors during the second half of next year. Both prospects provide a tremendous amount of upside, with the 23-year-old Vazquez's defense being viewed as MLB-ready right now. 

The 21-year-old Swihart is likely being groomed to become the everyday catcher for the team, but that might not occur until 2015, at the earliest. Swihart looks like he could be the whole package, combining offensive potential with improving defense. 

The second takeaway is that the Red Sox were only interested in bringing back Jarrod Saltalamacchia on their terms, likely a two-year deal with a hometown discount. With the free-agent deals recently signed by Carlos Ruiz and Brian McCann already this winter, Saltalamacchia should have better options available on the free-agent market. 

The 28-year-old Saltalamacchia is easily the best catcher remaining on the market. Now that he knows he is not returning to Boston, his market should become much clearer during the upcoming winter meetings. 

It's a disappointing end to Saltalamacchia's time in Boston. Saltalamacchia was a productive and improving player with the Red Sox, but he seemed to struggle during the postseason and the defensive flaws in his game become more pronounced. Boston made the decision to move on from Saltalamacchia's potential. 

Lastly, Boston looks likely to go into next season starting the year with a platoon between Pierzynski and David Ross, giving Boston two experienced, veteran catchers to lead the pitching staff.

Pierzynski has a career .290 batting average against right-handed pitchers and a career .322 hitter at Fenway Park in a small amount of at-bats. Prospect Ryan Lavarnway will again come to spring training having to open some eyes if he is not included in a deal this winter. 

If Pierzynski can produce anything close to his career slash line of .283/.322/.428 for next season, the Red Sox would take that immediately for the 2014 season. 

The bottom line is that Boston obviously valued roster flexibility and short-term contract length by signing Pierzynski, a blueprint that served them very well last season.

 

* Information from Jon Heyman/CBS Sports, Sean McAdam/CSNNEBaseball Reference, Sox Prospects

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