Should free agent A.J. Pierzynski become a Texas Ranger, he can revisit that All-Star Game snub with manager Ron Washington, who passed on the White Sox catcher who deserved to go this past July.
Pierzynski, who was hitting .285 with 14 home runs and 45 RBI at the All-Star break, went on to win the Silver Slugger Award for American League catchers by finishing with a career high 27 homers, 77 RBI, .278 average and .827 OPS. Pierzynski turns 36 on Dec. 30, and despite his strong record of durability, interest on the free agent market has been mild. The Rangers, Yankees and perhaps the Tampa Bay Rays appear to be the only teams with interest after the Pirates signed ex-Yankee Russell Martin and the Red Sox signed ex-Ranger Mike Napoli on the free-agent market.
The Rangers, who need a left-handed bat now that Josh Hamilton is an Angel, met with Pierzynski and his agent on Tuesday. They have Geovany Soto under contract, but would consider a platoon while using Pierzynski as a designated hitter as well.
Many Sox fans are asking why Pierzynski, whose last contract paid him $2 million in 2011 and $6 million in 2012, isn't being courted more aggressively by the Sox, who will need left-handed hitting if Pierzynski is gone. The answer lies somewhere in a combination of factors: Pierzynski's age, his price tag will be high, his defense is replaceable, and the Sox believe Tyler Flowers, 27, deserves a chance at the everyday job. Rick Hahn can relate to that -- he got the general manager's job after waiting, with armfuls of credentials, for Ken Williams to be moved up in the front office.
While Sox pitchers say they like throwing to Flowers, a .213 hitter with 12 homers and 29 RBI in 136 at-bats last season who is solid defensively. Chris Sale was always quick to praise Pierzynski's pitch calling and leaership, and he threw out 19 of 95 base stealers (20 percent) in 2012, nothing to write home about but his best since 2005 as the Sox placed more emphasis on holding runners. Mobility and blocking balls in the dirt are the big-bodied Pierzynski's weaknesses which explain in part why Sox pitchers ranked fourth in wild pitches with 66. That said, Pierzynski supplies intangibles that Washington, who managed the AL All-Star team, alluded to in July.
"I feel bad for Pierzynski," Washington said after the Pierzynski-less AL All-Star team was announced. "The guy's having an outstanding year. He's been working with a very good pitching staff over there with those Chicago White Sox for many years. I consider him a winning player because he beats you any kind of way he can. He beats you mentally, he beats you physically. So I feel really bad for Pierzynski."
Pierzynski's response: "If he felt that bad he would have put me on the team. He had an opportunity to and he didn't do it. Obviously, he can feel as bad as he wants, but he didn't feel that bad."
A significant piece of the Sox fan base will feel bad if and when Pierzynski puts on another uniform. A fan favorite since the Sox won the World Series in 2005, Pierzynski has made it clear that staying in Chicago is his preference, but he won't accept a modest Sox offer (one report says $4 million for one year is on the table) when more money and years can be had elsewhere. If and when the Rangers make a hefty contract offer, Washington won't have to feel as guilty as he did in July.